Is Britain ready for the electric car? Colin Goodwin isn’t so sure after a week of living with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV arrives bang on 9am on a trailer; with Mitsubishi based in Cirencester, it wouldn’t make it to my place in Hampton under its own steam.
“How far will it go if I drive like a bank robber?” I ask delivery man Jason Scholes. “You’ll never get fewer than 50 miles out of a full battery,” comes the reply.
The i-MiEV’s maiden voyage will be to Alton, where I am doing a story for a newspaper. It’s about 30 miles, so if I drive like a nun I should be fine. Jason said that a sure way to croak the battery is to run the heater flat out, so I leave it off and stick to 50mph on the motorway.
By the time we get to Alton, though, despite some determined slipstreaming, the batteries are down to a quarter. Clearly I am not going to make it home.
The charging cable’s in the boot, but the only person I know in Alton is the ex-Mrs Goodwin, and I don’t fancy asking if I can add to her electricity bill. The only other person I can think of to call on is Gordon Murray, whose factory is nearby in Shalford.
The Mivvy spent last night charging at Murray’s place. Not wanting me hanging around all night, Gordon lent me the company’s petrol Mitsubishi i. It’s nowhere near as good to drive as its electric brother, which even rides and steers better.
I’m busy aeroplane-building all day, so I can’t make it over to Gordon Murray Design until teatime. I drive back to Hampton in the dark and rain.
Oh dear, the instructions say you must plug the i-MiEV’s curly charging cable straight into a 13-amp socket. Luckily I manage to park right outside our terraced house, but I can’t get the car any nearer to the kitchen window. No choice but to risk an extension cable.It gets a bit hot near the plug end, so I don’t risk charging while I’m asleep, just in case the house catches fire.
Down to Andrew Frankel’s house in the Wye Valley for a discussion of Lola T70 chassis numbers and the career of Brian Redman. Not travelling by Mivvy, though, because the round trip would take at least three days. And Frankel’s quite sniffy about people turning up at his gaff in anything other than an air-cooled Porsche; he would explode if I rocked up in something that owes more to Michael Faraday than Hans Mezger.
Off to London for the day. London is the electric car’s natural habitat and, only 15 miles away, the perfect Mivvy commute. There are even on-street charging points, so there seems little danger of an unplanned overnight stay in the Ritz.
Except that you have to pre-register to use these points. I thought you just whirred up, plugged in and paid with a card.
We arrive in Berkeley Square with half our power left, but that’s cutting it a bit fine for the return leg. So it’s off to the Tesla showroom in Knightsbridge.
After 90 minutes of gratis electricity, six cups of coffee and a long chat, we’re homeward bound, making it back with enough range to take Mr Editor Hallett for a run around Teddington.
Only local motoring today: an errand in nearby Isleworth and then collecting Steve Cropley for a pub lunch with friend and master Ferrari restorer Kevin O’Rourke.
When you’re sure you won’t run out of power, you can really enjoy the Mitsubishi. That’s why, as the week draws to a close, I’m confident that the electric car will be part of the future – but not the immediate future.
The range of the i-MiEV is hopeless. Yes, it’s designed for city driving, but that means living in the city itself, not the suburbs. You also need your own charging post outside your house to run one, which means having your own personal parking space. I don’t.
And then there’s the cost. The Mivvy is priced just under £40,000, for which you can get a very nice Porsche 993. Which will get to Wales and back, and will also impress Frankel no end.