Currently reading: Living with an electric car
Is Britain ready for the electric car? We're not sure after living with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Autocar
News
3 mins read
3 May 2010

Is Britain ready for the electric car? Colin Goodwin isn’t so sure after a week of living with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

Monday

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.

See pictures from Goodwin's week with the i-MiEV

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

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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.

Friday

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.

Colin Goodwin

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tonym911 4 May 2010

Re: Living with an electric car

Los Angeles wrote:
many petrolheads take a blinkered cultural view: the car is of no use in my area therefore it is of no practical use elsewhere. Wrong.
Not sure where I said that, but let's not quarrel. If EVs take off in the US, where you've got room and the wherewithal for overnight charging, that's obviously a good thing. Last time I was in LA though I recall rather long rush hour queues. You need to be sure that an EV will survive in that environment. It's not about mileage ranges for you guys: it's about the duration of time they'll run with AC (essential in California, no?) and other battery-draining functions switched on.

Los Angeles 4 May 2010

Re: Living with an electric car

tonym911 wrote:
If you can tell me how I recharge my EV overnight in a typical suburban street – no garages,

I undertand your problem, but it isn't a problem if you reject the philosophy of EV cars, is it?

And as I pointed out, many petrolheads take a blinkered cultural view: the car is of no use in my area therefore it is of no practical use elsewhere. Wrong.

tonym911 4 May 2010

Re: Living with an electric car

Los Angeles wrote:
You need to expand on your view.
I lived in the suburbs of south London for over twenty years. If you can tell me how I recharge my EV overnight in a typical suburban street – no garages, very little chance of parking anywhere near your house, let alone next to it – I'll gladly expand my view.