Road Ahead

Me, Myself and i Got Along Famously

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The Mitsubishi "I" may not be selling well, but it accelerates and brakes smoothly, is comfortable and delivers competitive range. And range anxiety is minimized with ChargePoint and other charging docks appearing across the U.S.

Electric vehicles aren’t getting nearly the respect they deserve, based on a pleasurable week we just spent with the ’12 Mitsubishi i.

Not everyone here at the WardsAuto offices in Southfield, MI, is willing to take the plunge into the EV pool based on their commutes and the very real concern that there won’t be enough juice to reach Brighton or Mount Clemens or Grosse Pointe.

But my round-trip commute is a mere 11 miles (18 km), so I have no hesitation taking my chances with an electric vehicle. EVs aren’t for everyone, but they’re definitely for people like me.

To embrace an EV is to shirk the gasoline-driven, God-given right to go wherever you want whenever you want. Gas stations are easy to find. Not so with charging docks, despite political grandstanding about the importance of establishing the necessary infrastructure to wean us off foreign oil.

I was scheduled to drive the car on June 5, the same night I would take my son to Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit for a concert.

Hand-wringing ensued. Could I make it to the concert and back and not worry about being stuck on the side of the road, taking into account considerable waiting in post-concert traffic?

Fully charged, the Mitsubishi i delivers 77 miles (124 km) of range, based on our week of testing the car during temperate weather. Round-trip to and from Joe Louis Arena is about 40 miles (64 km), so chances are I’d have plenty of juice.

But what if it’s pouring rain, and I have to run the windshield wipers and defogger? What if it’s scorching hot, and AC is necessary?

Running accessories such as these cuts down on range so dramatically that owners of EVs suddenly find the Weather Channel to be one of their favorite stops on the TV.

Intent on taking the Mitsu downtown – and not wussing out – I do a little research and find a website for ChargePoint, one of several providers of EV charging docks.

The company’s website, www.chargepoint.net, shows a map of the U.S. with about 2,500 charging stations from Vancouver to the Florida panhandle.

Simply click on one of the points on the map to find the closest dock.

In southern Michigan, from Grand Rapids to Toledo, the map shows ChargePoint has 210 docks available, including about 70 in metro Detroit.

My son wanted to eat at Lafayette Coney Island and walk to Joe Louis Arena, so I look on the map for a charging dock in central downtown. Paydirt. I find eight docks at Campus Martius, a relatively new high rise that serves as the headquarters for Compuware.

If I could park the Mitsubishi i there and let it charge for several hours, I would have no problem getting home at the end of the night.

The ChargePoint site not only provides the location of docks but also uses blue or green tabs on the map as you zoom in to indicate whether the docks are occupied or available. Way cool.

Better yet, there’s a free smartphone app that lets you locate the nearest dock when you’re on the go.

With range anxiety averted, we set off for the show, burning less than 20 miles (32 km) of range. We pull into the Campus Martius garage and discover the benefits of EV ownership: The first 20-some spaces are reserved for electrics.

Just call a phone number on the charging dock, and a service technician activates the coupler so I can plug in the car. The tech asks some questions – my name, zip code, what kind of car I’m driving.

I ask him what this charge is going to cost me.

“This is a free charging dock,” the technician says. Some of the docks in other parts of the country must require a fee, based on accepted credit cards listed on the front. Thank you to whomever is paying for this particular one.

After the concert, the vehicle is showing 74 miles (119 km) of range, and we won’t be burning any of it stuck in traffic because we parked a 10-minute walk from the arena on a beautiful evening.

Emboldened by how smoothly the logistics of the evening had gone, I explore the i’s accelerative gusto and find it more than capable. Driving in the fast lane at 80 mph (129 km/h), the 4-door EV is right at home on Detroit highways.

Pricing for the rear-wheel-drive Mitsubishi i starts at $29,125, which is about $5,000 less than the Nissan Leaf, excluding eligible state and federal tax credits. Our tester price is just over $34,000. Sales for the "i" have been meager: a mere 300 U.S. deliveries so far this year, compared with 2,613 for the Leaf.

The driving dynamics of the two are very similar, and each can hold five people in reasonable comfort.

The Leaf has a cooler driver interface, and loads of vehicle information is displayed with attractive graphics. Meanwhile, the i tells you only what you really want to know: how fast am I going and how many more miles can I go?

The i is rated at 112 miles-per-gallon equivalent, compared with 99 MPGe for the Leaf.

What’s not to like about EVs such as the i? Granted, the disposal of massive battery packs poses serious environmental challenges. But the industry has cracked other nagging problems before.

And ChargePoint gives us hope that the infrastructure might be developing faster than many doubters thought possible.

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Blogs with an emphasis on technology, design and suppliers.

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at WardsAuto.com. He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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