Saturday, February 7, 2015

Unicorn in the Making?

Initially my goal was to build/convert my own electric car.  For the time being, I have talked myself out of that plan.  Then the idea shifted to buying a used electric car.  I used several related phrases on various Internet search engines.  Ebay wound up being a popular destination to perform research.  A project car from someone else, either successful or failed, was not an option.  My interest was is something that was factory original, not a conversion.  Some of the candidates were TH!NK City, Kandi CoCo, Bombardier NEV, and Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar.  If the price was right, something from ZENN, GEM, or anything else that was either out of production or still in production, but used would be considered.  I could justify a NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) due to my short commute to work and ownership of traditional cars to support longer trips.

Previously, from time to time I would get lost performing Internet searches for micro-cars.  The idea of finding something rare or obscure that was still functional appealed to me.  Part of the interest was from learning the story behind the company and part was from "joining" a sub-culture of car enthusiasts who wanted to preserve pieces of little-known automotive history.  Some call these types of cars "unicorns" due to their rare sightings.  It could be a conversation starter.  It would satisfy an internal "neat" requirement.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon the Mitsubishi I-MiEV.  They were too new to the market at the time to find a used model.  And with the financial incentives from the federal tax deduction and IL state rebate which were only available to new purchases, buying new starting to look like a viable option.  Factor in zero percent financing and offsetting the price with a trade-in, it was really looking justifiable.  At the time of purchase I figured it would just be a matter of months before I saw another one driving around town.  Fast forward two years later and I have yet to see another one on the road.  I have become aware that another one exists in my town, but we have yet to cross paths.

My purchase was a 2012 model year.  There wasn't a 2013 model year vehicle produced, it was just left over models from the previous year that were seen on the dealers' lots.  A 2014 model year vehicle was produced, and it even offered a price lowered in excess of $6000.  That still was not enough to excite the masses.  So with low manufacturing numbers for 2012 and 2014, it appears I may have gotten my wish after all.  I own an original manufactured car produced in small numbers.  The total global sales may have exceeded 30,000 units, but only about 2,000 of those sales have been in the U.S.  It is tough to tell if there is a 2015 model year being produced.  The few sites that pretend to have information make statements like "electric engine" or show multiple photos with conflicting body styles.  I had really hoped the I-MiEV would have become mainstream.  A lack of advertising has not hurt Tesla popularity and sales, but the same is not true for the Mitsubishi.  Unfortunately most people have never heard of it.  I only stumbled upon it when I was searching for other electric vehicles.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The i-MiEV Rebate Check is (Finally) in the Mail

So, what's happened in the months since the last post?  Not too much.  There was this one other thing that happened, but that will have to be a separate blog after I review some data and calculate some values.

The BIG thing that was worth breaking silence: The Illinois state rebate check arrived on Monday, July 29th!

Timing of Vehicle Rebate Issuance
The Illinois EPA processes Vehicle Rebate applications twice per year.  Applications that are postmarked February 1 – June 30 will be processed starting July 1.  Applications postmarked July 1 – January 31 will be processed starting February 1.  Please note that, due to the significant number of applications we receive and the need to request additional information from some applicants, it may take up to five months after the processing starting date to complete the review and rebate issuances for all eligible applications.  In addition, the timing of rebate issuances is dependent on funding availability in the Alternate Fuels Fund.

Vehicle Rebate Amounts
  • ... the amount of the rebate is 10 percent of the base retail price of the vehicle as reflected on the MSRP (“base MSRP”), not including add-on equipment options, up to $4,000. At the current time, the only vehicles in which the 10 percent of the base MSRP is used to establish the rebate amount are electric vehicles.
Visit for full information about the rebate program.

Short Summary and Conclusion

I purchased my i-MiEV on August 22, 2012.  The application requires the license plate number for submission.  Therefore I had to wait until the new plates arrived before I could submit my application.  It was submitted well before the January 31 deadline.  The state would have started processing applications on February 1.  Instead of 5 months, I was really hoping for something closer to 5 weeks.  So by the beginning of July I was really starting to wonder if the state had run out of money.  I wanted to see what experiences other owners might be having.  My fear was maybe I had not filled out my paperwork correctly and my application had already become recycled paper.  After some searching, I came across members on the Tesla forum discussing IL state rebates.  One entry gave the name of a person to contact.  The individual wound up being the Manager for the Clean Air Programs for the IL EPA.  How often do you find valuable information like that?

On July 18th, I sent an email to Darwin asking about the status of the rebate.  The next morning I received an reply stating the a check should arrive within 3 weeks.  The NEXT MORNING!  That's terrific when correspondence receives such a quick response.  Ten days later, the check was waiting for me at home.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Your Neighbor Should Buy an Electric Vehicle (EV)

 I will begin by conceding to the reality that an EV is not for everyone.  At least not yet!  Maybe the range isn't long enough, the style doesn't suit you, or perhaps you can't justify the initial cost (even if the long-term cost is lower).  But that's no reason not to convince your friends or neighbors that it isn't right for them.  What's in it for you?  Why should you take up the EV cause?  Will it be the lowered environmental impact?  Will it be the hope that as the early adapters demonstrate there is a commercial soundness to EVs, the price comes down and advancement to the technology results in range increases?  No.  Your motivation should be much more direct and personal.  Your motivation should answer the question, "What's in it for me?"  How do you stand to gain from others buying and using EVs?  Simple.  LOWER GAS PRICES!  It's simple supply and demand, really.
One need only to look at Hurricane Sandy.  It was a devastating natural disaster that many people are still struggling to recover from.  What does this have to do with EVs?  It's true that 320 Fisker Karmas were destroyed at a port in New Jersey due to flooding.  And 16 of those had caught fire after salt water damage caused a short circuit to the low-voltage Vehicle Control Unit in one car that spread to the others due to the high winds.  But that has nothing to do with my point.  So back to the supply and demand reasoning.  There were some that were speculating that this natural disaster, like so many others, (and especially Hurricane Katrina) would be cause for the price of gasoline to spike, or at least increase.  But just the opposite happened.  Why?  There were far fewer commuters in the areas that were effected and therefore there was a decrease in demand.  One could almost draw a parallel to the numerous times people have tried to organize "don't buy gas days".  The theory was that, if as a nation, people chose one day to not buy gas, the result would be gas stations having excess inventory.  That would force them to lower prices as they would have to sell what they had prior to new inventory arriving.  Maybe others have different "effects", but the common goal was to get gas stations to lower the price of fuel.  The hurricane was able to achieve what loosely organized social experiments were not able to accomplish.  The price of gas decreased.
So this is where your friends, relatives, and neighbors come in.  If they buy and regularly use an EV on a daily basis, then there is more gas for the rest of us.  Why do I include myself as a beneficiary?  Well, in addition to my Mitsubishi i-MiEV, I also own a beautiful and functional work of art known as the 2006 Jaguar XJ Super V8 Portfolio.  I could fill pages about what I like about that car also, but that would have to be another blog.  And some might consider it boastful or arrogant.  I also have a motorcycle and a Mazda Miata which is now only 5 years away from qualifying for antique plates.  So, I too, would be happy to see the price of gas go down. 
Just because an EV isn't the right car for you, doesn't mean you can't be an advocate.  Convince your extended family members that it would be the best vehicle for their high school student because the limited range would be sufficient to get them back and forth to school, but wouldn't allow them to take unauthorized extended road trips.  Convince you boss that the financial incentives would have a positive effect at tax time.  And, if the company installs an ESVE (Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment) Charger at work, he could recharge for free while the company gets "green" credit for caring about the environment.  Persuade your neighbors that the cost of charging is around 2-4 cents per mile (depending on local utility rates) compared to 13 cents per mile (for a car getting 25 MPG at $3.25 per gallon) for a gas powered car.  You won't have to worry about hearing their exhaust as they're coming and going at various hours of the day, or worry about the fluids their car leaks.  And when it comes time to head out to dinner with them, you can talk them into driving.  They can use that time to thank you for enlightening them about the benefits of EV ownership and they can show off how much they enjoy various features.  You can smile contently and silently thank them for helping to lower price of gasoline.  Who knows, maybe one day in the future, they will convert you as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

i-MiEV as United States Post Office vehicle

Should this be the next United States Post Office delivery vehicle?

The problem:
The USPS is losing money.
The solution:
Replace gasoline powered local route vehicles with electric powered Mitsubishi i-MiEV Cargo models.  I'm not trying to suggest a 100% replacement without consideration of limiting factors.  I'm suggesting that the scenarios of different cities and routes be evaluated and a determination made on the merits of each on an individual case.  Here are the reasons why this makes sense. 
·         The distance a for a postal route is a known factor.  Not every route is the same length.  But a driver typically drives the same route each delivery day and should know how far they need the vehicle to transport them.  One source states that delivery vehicles are driven an average of 17 miles per day.  Even if that distance were doubled or tripled, the Mitsubishi would be able to handle the trip.  Carrying the extra weight of the mail will lower the 62 mile estimated range of the base i-MiEV.  I don't believe it would lower it below 34 miles though.
·         City vehicle.  Once delivered, the car wouldn't have a need to travel away from its base of operation.  It won't have to worry about going hundreds of miles in a day to go on vacation.  It also won't have to worry about keeping pace with other cars on the highway.  It is almost as if the car were designed from the beginning to fit this purpose. 

·         Right Hand Drive.  The car was originally created for the Japanese market where citizens drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right.  This means that the parts are in place to make a Right Hand Drive vehicle to meet the postal requirements without having to engineer a costly conversion process. 
·         Regenerative Braking.  The driver may have hundreds of stops in a day.  If the car is able to generate energy when the brake is applied, that will add to the vehicle range.  And the benefit over gas powered cars is "doubled" since braking in a gas powered car is an indication that too much fuel was used and was "wasted".
·         Dedicated use vehicle.  Unlike a private citizen debating about purchasing an electric vehicle and having to determine if the car will fit a wide range of needs, the post office pretty much has one use.  The car won't have to accommodate flats of mail one day and then have to carry four passengers around town the next day.  It has to carry the driver and carry envelopes and packages. 
·         Parked/charged every night.  There is concern among some people about the demands on the power grid that would be "increased" by charging electric vehicles.  The areas of the country where an EV would make the most sense are places that have a mild winter.  Those are places that also tend to have very warm summers.  Luckily, the i-MiEV would be out on the road (and away from the chargers) during the peak of the day's temperature.  This means it won't be getting charged at the same time there is high demand for customers of the electric company that are using air conditioners in their buildings.  The EVs would be recharged at "off-peak" hours.
·         Lower long-term operating costs.  True, the initial purchase price could be higher than some other gas powered options, but the cost over the life of the vehicle would be far lower.  And with some estimates that gas-powered replacement vehicles could be around $30,000 each, the argument for an electric vehicle around the same initial cost becomes that much stronger.  The cost for electricity is far lower than the cost of gasoline.  Fewer mechanical parts means fewer opportunities for issues.  There wouldn't be oil changes or exhaust system repairs, and the regenerative braking would also mean fewer brake pad replacements.
·         Lower environmental impact.  Being lower-cost doesn't come with the sacrifice of being more harmful for the environment.  True, not every kilowatt of energy produced is produced in the most environmentally beneficial way.  But it also takes electricity to create gasoline!  So not only is the burning of gasoline an issue, the creating of gasoline uses more electricity than the operation of an electric vehicle.
·         Tight turning radius.  The stock vehicle has a short wheelbase which lends to a tight turning radius.  It is 133.6 inches long overall.
·         Cargo compartment.  The dimensions of the interior rear are 53.1 inches wide by 46.4 inches deep and 43.3 inches high with a flat floor.
·         Made in the U.S.A.  Not yet, but what better incentive for a company to expand operations state-side than to entice them with a long-term contract for thousands of units?

Electric vehicles for the Post Office is not a new and radical concept.  It has been tested off and on for over 100 years.  Here is a link to some of the other Electric Vehicles that have been tried. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

1000 Miles in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV

It has taken just over 3 months to reach 1000 miles.

What are my impressions?

The first thing I would expect people to want to know is "Do you like the car after having spent that amount of time with it?"  The answer is, "Definitely!"  A rough-average use is 10 miles per day.  That is based on 1000 miles after around 100 days.  Most days are closer to 4-5 miles if I just drive back and forth to work only.  So there are plenty of days where the driving is much higher than 10 miles to bring the average up that high.

It is encouraging to have spoken with many open-minded people about the advantages of owning an electric car.  I don't think I've been able to convert anyone I know to electric yet.  Hopefully I've been able to lend some helpful insight to those who are reading this.

When I drove one of my gas powered cars regularly, fuel efficiency was on my mind.  But is was mostly when refueling that I gave it the most consideration.  I would fill the tank and compute the average gallons by comparing the amount of fuel added to the trip odometer.  I didn't stay conscious over the range of the tank about getting the best economy out of the car.  Maybe this is more a reflection of me, but my mentality was to make sure traffic wasn't getting in front of me and slowing down my progress.  I would analyze the traffic ahead and behind to make sure I wasn't going to get "boxed in" by surrounding cars.  Now I find myself content to behind someone driving at a reasonable pace and grateful that any finger-pointing for holding up others in traffic will be directed their way.

The range I've experienced to date has been 4 miles per kilowatt hour.  The range has been on the decline since colder mornings in Illinois have meant using the defroster on the way to work.  I expect the "winter" range to decline to a number closer to 3 miles per kW hr.  The other factor for my range being around 4 miles per kW hr is my usage of the Eco driving mode for most of my accelerating and selecting "Brake" mode while slowing down.  I'm a little surprised that I am still trying to achieve a higher range and haven't given in to enjoying the thrill of using all the torque available when accelerating.  Perhaps "in the name of science" I will try to determine how low the range can go when accelerating aggressively and using the climate controls with reckless abandon.

Some other Likes

If a person doesn't want to like the car, the style is an obvious target.  However, if a person is seriously considering an electric car, then my conclusion is they will be impressed by the fact that the car is not overloaded with features that add weight without adding benefit.  An extreme example that comes to mind is the fitting of high end RV's with quarried tile floors.  I'm not trying to say that an RV shouldn't have marble floors.  My point is that in a vehicle like the i-MiEV, it wouldn't be justifiable.  Mitsubishi has done a good job of keeping the weight down, which is critical considering that energy consumption and therefore range is impacted by the amount of energy that is required to accelerate a mass.

I like the small physical footprint the car is able to achieve while still maintaining a cabin roomy enough for a driver that is 6'3" (about 2 meters).  Others may think it's too small.  Of the looks the car gets, I often wonder how many are due to the style of the car and how many are from people that recognize it is an electric vehicle?  Honestly though, I think most people are noticing the style because most people I talk to are amazed to discover it is 100% electric.  There was one guy that comes to mind that may have realized it is electric.  My wife and I were watching him from our table inside a restaurant.  He circled the car a couple times and bent down behind the car to look for a tailpipe. 

I like the fact that I am not reliant on remote charging to get around.  Along with that comes the satisfaction that my cost to recharge is just under 2 cents per mile.  Which is another reason I'm surprised that I pay such close attention to the cost.  Given that a car getting 25 MPG with a cost of gas at $3.50 per gallon is paying 14 cents per mile for fuel; I could pay 4 cents per mile and still be 3.5 times lower for the cost of energy per mile.  Maybe in the back of my mind I'm trying to get to a self-imposed break-even point versus gas powered cars for the purpose of either defending myself against critics or for promoting electric to an accepting audience.

And should things change in the future to where I was driving distances that required recharging before returning, I would like the fact that the recharging infrastructure is steadily growing.

Friday, November 23, 2012


The excitement after finally receiving my new plates rivaled that of Steve Martin's character in The Jerk when the new phone books arrived.  The milestone event for Navin Johnson was finally having a public identity.  In much the same way, my 100 Percent Electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV now wears a badge of honor displaying its true identity.  

373 EL

373 EL
I originally applied by mail for my plates around October 20, 2012.  The first indication that was received that the application was being processed was discovering that the check cleared on November 1, 2012.  I figured that if something wasn't filled out properly, they would return the entire application and make me start over.  Fortunately that didn't just turn out to be a poor assumption on my part.  The strong feeling of cautious optimism was the result of the "modified" form I filed.  An AFFIRMATION FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE is required to be filled out when submitting the application.  In an earlier post, I displayed  the official (but outdated) Illinois Secretary of State form.  As an advocate for Electric Vehicles, I really wanted to share the updated form that I created.  (I have updated this page to add an image of the form I used at the bottom of the page.)  My hesitation was in waiting to determine if that would be cause to reject my application.  So, on November 20, 2012 I returned home from work and checked the mail.  I had been checking the mail with eager anticipation for the last week.  My internal goal was to have the plates by Thanksgiving.   (For readers not familiar with Thanksgiving, it is a holiday in the United States of America on the fourth Thursday in November that is part remembrance of the European settlers arriving on the continent and a Autumn harvest festival.)  


The Mitsubishi dealership provided a plastic license plate frame with their dealership "advertising" on it at the time of purchase.  That was OK with the original passenger plates for the car.  But the Electric Vehicle plates deserve to be displayed more predominantly than the passenger plates.  The simple solution was to turn the plastic frame around and put it behind the plate.  The advantage of still using the plastic frame is that the metal license plate is not in direct contact with the plastic bumper which could lead to gouges in the bumper over time.  The front bumper does not have a factory license plate mount.  My solution was to use double-sided foam tape.

Front Plate mounted using double-sided foam tape.

These plates expire in December of 2013.  At that time, $38 will be charged to renew the plates for another two years.  The alternative, if I kept the passenger plates, would be to pay $99 per year.  The next step is to try to figure out how to get a refund for the plates I paid for when buying the car.  That will be another blog if I am successful.

Below is the form that I submitted to the Secretary of State.  It was accepted for my application, it should work for anyone else also.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dispelling the Myths about Electric Vehicles

 There are a few criticisms that I see repeatedly.  Criticism is justified when it is true.  In addition to the criticisms are the false truths.  Some of these have originated from pre-production reviews and possibly after just reading media press kits.  Unfortunately too much of it appears to evolve around fear of the unknown or some type of perceived threat to life as people know it.  Let me list some of them and give a response.  Hopefully a response from someone with actual experience will have more weight than a critique from someone who has zero or limited actual experience.

1.    People won’t buy an EV unless they have charging stations nearby.  I have had my EV for two months.  In that time I have been able to perform 100% of my charging at home.  And from reading the i-MiEV forum (, there are plenty of others who have longer ownership time, and have done the same.  I even use just the factory supplied 120 Volt charger running on standard household current. 

2.    There aren’t enough charging stations around to support drivers.  This is similar to the criticism above, but I have seen it supported by stating the number of publicly available charging stations compared to the number of gas stations.  The huge omission that this leaves out is that charging can be done away from public stations.  If people were able to get gasoline from their house as easy as turning on a water faucet, there would be a lot less gas stations.  If charging could only be done away from the house, this statement might have some merit.

3.    You could run out of battery power somewhere inconvenient.  This criticism would be justified if it came from a person who routinely drives their car until it runs out of gas.  If a person has enough sense to realize how far their car can go before needing gas, they should be able to figure out how far their EV can go before needing a charge.  The difference is there is a larger safety net for fueled vehicles.  If a person lived in a small town where the only gas station closed at 8 PM every night and wasn’t open on Sundays, you would expect they would adjust their behavior to account for those limitations.

4.    Electric Vehicles are slow and can’t get out of their own way.  Have they heard of the Tesla Roadster?  But most of the time, the comment isn’t from someone who’s been in an electric car, it’s from someone who’s just looked at performance numbers.  How quickly does a person need to accelerate? Is every stop light treated like a drag race?  Actually, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has the potential to accelerate quickly when driven.  But when I’m in my Zen-like state, I don’t feel the need to accelerate quickly (most of time, anyway).  If there is traffic behind me, I will accelerate in a responsible manner to avoid impeding the progress of those following.  After all, most EV owners are also advocates and promoters of EVs.  Therefore it is in our best interest to not offend those behind us and allow the “slow” stereotype to be advanced.

5.    The cost is too prohibitive.  As of yet there aren’t many people making that comment that have backed it up with a break-even analysis.  True, the initial purchase price is higher than another vehicle that may suit their transportation needs.  And the negative reviewers that warn against the price and the cost of charging tend to look at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to public utility rates for electricity.  There are a few ways to counter this.  One is logical.  The other is emotional. 
·         Logically, one compares costs for a new ICE (Internal combustion engine) car against an EV.  Costs include initial purchase price, rebates and incentives, operating costs and maintenance costs.  Residual value should be a component as well.  The quick comparison would be to calculate the difference in cost (after rebates, incentives, and financing costs for each) and decide the break-even point using the cost of gas and fuel economy against the cost of electricity and cost per mile to operate.  For my particular situation, the cost per mile to operate the i-MiEV is $0.015 per mile.  Let’s use the 2012 Ford Fiesta with a mid-range sticker price of $15,500 as a comparison.  It is an available sub-compact with 33 MPG fuel economy and let's use gas at $3.50 gallon.  That yields a cost of $0.11 per mile.  If the purchase cost difference is $14,500.00 then the break-even point is around 30,500 miles.  The calculation also takes into account the $7,500 federal tax credit and the Illinois state rebate of $3,000 for a $30,000 electric vehicle.  That’s not bad for most drivers.  For someone who drives 10,000 miles a year the break-even would be around 3 years.  (That would equate to around 200 miles a week.) 
·         On the emotional side let’s see how the decision to buy an EV stacks up against other major purchases.  Would you expect an accountant, who just bought two new wave runners with a trailer, to question the financial sense behind buying an EV?  When would buying a full dresser Harley Davidson make sense financially?  What about ski boats, fishing boats, sport bikes, and vacation homes?  Those are lifestyle purchases.  They are rarely tools that one needs to earn a living.  Yet why is it that an EV, which can be legitimately used on a daily basis to assist in earning an income, must be defended as a purchase?  We’ll congratulate the person who drives home in a new motorcycle or shows off pictures of some other new acquisition.  But EV owners are asked to justify their purchase.  It can be thought of as a lifestyle purchase that has the added benefit of serving a utilitarian purpose.  Or a utilitarian vehicle that trades range limitations for long-term operating cost savings while making a environmental statement.

6.    Owners are required to set up a 240V charger in their house.  This is just completely untrue.  Fortunately there has only been one occurrence of this statement that I have seen.  But the misinformation has a way of spreading and becoming a deterrent to those who may be "on-the-fence" and don't fact check.  The Geek Squad from Best Buy only comes out to determine if your current household wiring can handle the load for the 120V charger.

7.    There is only one cup holder! The truth is there are three.  One is immediately visible behind the hand brake lever between the front seats.  The other two flip out from just below the air ducts on the outside portion of the dash.  The shape of these cup holders is square and I’ve even seen references to people using these as smart phone holders.

8.    The charging of Electric Vehicles will place additional burden on an already strained electric grid.  A fairly large percentage of owners are charging their vehicles at night (after returning home from work) and some even time their charging for net metering to take advantage of lower utility rates.  So peak demand during the warmest part of Summer days isn't too much of an issue.  Here's something else to consider.  It takes electricity to make gasoline too.  It takes 6 kilowatt hours of electricity to refine a gallon of gasoline.  (  I can drive about 24 miles with that 6 kilowatts of electricity, and I haven't produced any tailpipe emissions in the process.

9.    The creation of electricity has an equal amount of negative environmental impact as the burning of fossil fuels.  This is the rebuttal from those trying to counter the “green” aspect of electric cars.  As mentioned above, electricity is used to create gasoline, then additional pollutants are released when the gas is used.

This may become an entry that gets updated as additional myths are found to dispel.