ESB installed a special meter at my home and an exterior socket on my garage wall which meant it was extremely easy to charge. I simply had to remember to plug the car in every evening and then I was good to go.
In total I managed to cover over 900 kms in the iMiev during the month. Admittedly most of that was urban driving, from my home in Knocklyon through Dublin traffic to the city centre and a few other runs in the local area.
The total cost in electricity was just €15.88. This is a mightily impressive figure given that it is based on genuine city usage by a bog-standard real life driver. Taking an official town consumption figure of 40mpg for the 1.1-litre Colt supermini from Mitsubishi, the same distance would have cost me €80.73 in petrol.
The plucky little iMiev is almost exactly the opposite of an internal combustion engine. When you’re stuck in traffic, a conventionally fuelled car is simply burning cash. In comparison the electric motor is a miser, only using power when you are actually moving.
However, the corollary is also true on the open road. I took the Mitsubishi out for a run on the motorway from the Knocklyon junction of the M50 to Bray and back again. And while an internal combustion engine is at it’s happiest cruising along at 120km/h speeds, I watched the battery indicator in the iMiev wilting before my eyes.
The run to Bray and back, a distance of about 45 kilometres, drained more than half the battery. At that rate I would only just make it to the airport and back on one full charge. The claim of an equivalent of 220mpg is very attractive, but the limited range is a serious drawback.
Overall, the iMiev is a very easy car to drive. It is just like any conventional automatic small car, except it’s rear wheel drive and the weight distribution is different as the heaviest components – the batteries – are along the chassis rather than in the front where a normal engine would be.
It also takes off from rest at an amazing pace – something I wasn’t expecting. I was astonished the first time I tried it in drive rather than eco-mode. Put the foot down when the lights turn green and you will leave most petrol engines standing.
It is also eerily silent. It makes almost no noise at all when moving off and I found myself startling pedestrians who caught me out of the corner of their eye but who never heard me coming.
So to the €29,000 question. Would I buy one?
I liked the iMiev and I think electric cars have a serious future. But in its current form, it may struggle. It’s almost as small as the Smart Car, in terms of the technology, but you always fear that something better will come along in 18 months to make your pride and joy look like last year’s iPhone. It also has rivals like the Nissan Leaf and the upcoming Opel Ampera that seem to offer more for the money.
With a price tag of €28,995, Mitsubishi will have to reflect on the fact that you can buy a hell of a lot of regular car for that money. And if you were happy with a supermini, would you choose this over the 1.1-litre Colt that starts at €11,900? Exemplary green credentials can only get you so far.
The iMiev is almost there as a serious practical option for the second car in a family and the cost per kilometre is fantastic. I think they will have to do a little more, either in terms of price or a guaranteed buy-back or trade-in scheme on the next generation. Mitsubishi deserves credit for their investment in delivering a genuinely usable electric car to the market, but in the current economic climate I think a lot of potential buyers will look at the iMiev and say “not yet not quite.”