Test Drive: All-electric Mitsubishi i

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Rich DeMuro

10:09 a.m. CST, January 25, 2012
Each month we take a test drive in an eco-friendly car and this month the car of choice was the all-electric Mitsubishi i.

With a fuel economy equivalent of 112 miles per gallon, the i, Mitsubishi says, is the most affordable electric car out there.

Other electric and hybrid cars have been gaining popularity in the U.S. recently, and Mitsubishi is making their entry in with a strong contender.

It’s tiny, efficient and boasts a friendly exterior.

“We’ve got a little bit more of an eco-expressionistic design into this,” said Melvin, a representative from Mitsubishi. “We’ve put a lot of bubbly design.”

It definitely is a happy car; Without a drop of gas the i can go 62 miles on a single charge.

But Mitsubishi isn’t new to the game by any means. Though the i is new in the U.S., a similar model has been cruising the streets of Japan for more than five years.

“We have over 40 years of experience in developing the lithium ion batteries and our engineers have done a bunch of research in Japan,” explained Melvin.

At a quick glance it’s obvious the i has a small footprint, but surprisingly the interior feels roomy if a bit tinnier than your typical compact.

True to its high-tech form, the i offers a navigation system with real-time traffic, Bluetooth connectivity, voice controls and a hard drive with 40 GBs of storage for your tunes.

“There are a ton of high-tech features in here,” Melvin said. “However we wanted to keep it simple and make it so that everything can adjust and not have too many buttons and make it too complex.”

On the road, drivers have three different drive modes ranging from the most powerful to the most fuel efficient.

And as an added bonus the remote for the car offers features to pre-heat or cool the car before getting inside. The only caveat being, it needs to be plugged in.

Speaking of being plugged in, recharging the i will take 22 hours with a standard plug or 7 hours with a 220 volt adapter and even less with a level 3 charging station (currently still few and far in between in the U.S.). It’s just like filling up a tank of gas, for half an hour.

For such a high-tech car the i isn’t without its flaws. One obvious oddity is the retractable antenna that protrudes out from the remote control–not too common with today’s standards.

Minor oddity aside, the intuitive features in the i make it an excellent commuter’s car, but it probably won’t be making it first on the list for anyone looking for a family car.

The Mitsubishi i runs about $30,000, but the state and federal tax credits of up to $10,000 may help with the sticker shock.

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