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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two Months Living with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV

So, what’s it like to have an electric car?

In a word, BRILLIANT! Every time I start driving I can’t help but think I’m on a Disney ride.  The quiet hum of the electric motor and the faint sound of road noise from the narrow tires makes me think I’m on an amusement park ride.  That’s not a bad thing.  I get child-like smirk across my face and feel like I jumped the track and exited the park.  Part of the feeling comes from the surreal and Zen-like quiet of the car while it is operating and part of the feeling comes from style of the car itself.  'Polarizing' comes to mind as to how people react to the shape.  You either admire it or you don’t.  It definitely departs from traditional styling without being too radical.  It is easy on the eyes and is welcoming rather than threatening.  If this car was in Mad Max it would be cast as a victim instead of as a villain.  For a person that is 6’3” (2m), the interior is accommodating.  I don’t feel cramped and have ample leg room and head room.  I doubt four occupants my size would want to travel for extended durations, but that wasn’t what the car was designed for anyway.  It would be the equivalent of reviewing a sport bike and complaining about the lack of storage space.

How is it used?

It’s only fair to give a real-world account of how I have used my i-MiEV over the last two months.  What good would it do to say it works for 95% of my driving without explaining what my driving requirements are?  A little background information is in order.  Between my wife and me, we own 5 vehicles and a motorcycle.  We have a two-car garage with enough extra space to keep the motorcycle inside, but 3 of the other 4 vehicles are in storage.  We are dual income with no kids and have a modest house which has been paid off for a few years.  We’re best described as middle-income with very few extravagances.  (If we were upper-income, I would have bought a Tesla instead.)  In two months time, over 650 miles have been put on the Mitsubishi.  45 of those miles were returning from the dealership with the car.  Therefore, the average is about 10 miles of driving per day.  My daily commute to work and back is 4 miles round-trip.  Other ways the mileage is accumulating is by trips to the grocery store, other shopping trips to department stores or malls, the occasional restaurant trip, and other miscellaneous driving around town.  The farthest from home the car has been since returning from the dealership is about 10 miles one-way to my brother’s house.  It’s not that I don’t have the confidence to take it farther, but I haven’t really had the need to go much farther.  We had contemplated what would have been a 35 mile round-trip excursion to an apple orchard, but the weather wasn’t cooperative the weekend we had planned on going.  Almost as important to mention are the trips I haven’t been able to use the EV. I built a fence a few weeks back.  The i-MiEV came in handy for trips back and forth to the hardware store for things like a new garden hose (for mixing concrete), gate latches, nails and screws.  What it didn’t get used for was picking up and returning the two-man auger used for drilling post holes, the two trips to pick up thirty 60-pound bags of cement mix, and the trip to get the 1.5 cubic yard cement mixer.  But those trips were not about range limitations.  If one of our other vehicles wasn’t a Dodge Nitro, the hauling of 3600 pounds of cement mix would have been a different logistical outcome than dividing it up into just two loads.  My wife uses the other vehicle as needed and if we need to head out-of-town it’s not a dilemma to choose a gas powered car with its “unlimited” range.  But I do face “pump anxiety”.  Pump Anxiety is a term I just created to describe the feeling one gets when filling a fuel tank and watching the cost accumulate as the gallons are added.  It can also be used to describe the anxiousness associated with evaluating the cost of fuel at different stations or on different days of the week depending on what world event has caused the price of oil to fluctuate.

Friday, October 19, 2012


How does one obtain Electric Vehicle Plates for the state of Illinois?

There are two forms that the Secretary of State provides which require completion in order to be issued plates for an EV.  (Note: I use EV as an abbreviation for Electric Vehicle, but the plates issued by IL will have a random number followed by EL.  The EL is for ELectric vehicle.  EV is already in use by the state for Exempt Vehicle.)  One form is the AFFIRMATION FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE and the other is APPLICATION FOR VEHICLE TRANSACTION (VSD.190). 

The AFFIRMATION FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE is not available online at the time of this writing.  I am also informed that the Affirmation should be updated in the near future.  Currently the form is intended for vehicles that have been converted to all electric.  As such, the form asks for pictures of the front, back and side of vehicle along with photos of the electric motor and battery storage.  The Vehicle Services Department should make the form clearer for originally manufactured electric power vehicles with the update.  And hopefully the form will be available online in much the same way that the AFFIRMATION FOR LOW-SPEED VEHICLE form (VSD.796) is on the SOS website.  Feel free to print a copy of the form below.  My local facility had to have this form faxed to them so the chances are you closest facility may have never seen this.  An important note: If you have an originally manufactured EV, the photos are not required.  If you are reading this before you buy, print a copy and take it to the dealership with you.

The second form required is an APPLICATION FOR VEHICLE TRANSACTION (VSD.190).  This is a form that a local facility should have.  A new car dealer should have these forms as well.  This is available online but not in a printable form, so avoid that route.  I wish I could provide complete instructions for filling out the form, but it will differ depending on if it is for new issue or reclassification because it was done wrong the first time.  A scan of the form for my Mitsubishi i-MiEV is attached.  Do not try to use a copy of this form since the bar code on the form has been erased and the form also has a section filled out in duplicate for when the plates are sent to the owner.  The one critical step is filling out ELECTRIC in box 3 for Plate Type Requested. 

Then there is the submission of the fee.  To reclassify the plates is $29 plus the fee for the plates themselves.  The plates are $35, $27, $18, or $9 depending on when during the two-year cycle they are bought.  Plates issued between Jan 1 and June 14 of even numbered years are $35.  Plates issued between June 15 and Dec 14 of even numbered years are $27.  Plates issued between Dec 15 of even numbered year and June 14 of odd numbered year are $18.  And finally plates issued between June 15 and Dec 31 of odd numbered years are $9.  After that the cost is $35 for a two-year renewal.  As an example, my plates will cost $56, the $29 fee plus the $27 "pro-rated" plate cost to have them issued in October of 2012.  If you are lucky enough to have an informed dealer and are getting plates issued at the time of purchase, the $9 thru $35 fee will apply instead of the $99 fee for PASSENGER plates.

So for now, both forms must be sent to Springfield for processing.  The local facilities cannot issue the plates.  You may be lucky enough to find one willing to send the paperwork to Springfied for you though. The address to send the two completed forms and payment is:

Secretary of State
Non-Standard Plates
501 S. 2nd St, Room 541
Springfield, IL 62756

I hope to be able to add information on how to obtain a refund for the $99 Passenger plate fee in the future.  That effort will more than likely take as much persistance as trying to find out how to get EV plates.

 Please feel free to Post a Comment if this information has helped you, if it is accurate, or if updates become available from the SOS. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


As an EV advocate, I am always looking for ways to promote EV ownership. 

Part of promoting ownership is by populating web sites such as with publicly accessible charging stations.  Then my thoughts drift towards schemes of finding ways to use those public stations myself instead of using household current.  This article attempts to share some of the motivations and possible repercussions of using remote charging strictly as a cost-saving alternative to home charging. 

Here are some of the thought processes.  I am aware of a charging station at one of our three local hospitals.  There are two stations, each with two chargers resulting in a total of four chargers with “Electric Vehicle Reserved Parking.”  When I first learned of these, I thought “Great, I can drive my Mitsubishi i-MiEV down and plug in for a while to charge up the batteries.”  The distance from home is about 2.5 miles.  A round-trip journey would be 5 miles.  For the sake of simplicity let’s figure it takes one kilowatt hour of power to drive the 5 mile round-trip route and it takes a half hour to charge one kilowatt hour back to the batteries.  The car needs to sit a half hour just to have a net zero gain/loss.  Then figure one hour of sitting per 10 miles of range increase.  How does one spend that time?  Read a book?  Walk around the hospital campus?  So a charger with a nearby activity would be a better solution.

Next Idea

The local Nissan dealer recently moved across town.  The new dealership location also brought with it a new charging terminal (for their Leaf’s).  The dealership is conveniently located close to a strip mall and several dining establishments.  This would solve the “what to do while charging the car” question.  The time could be spent having a meal nearby or shopping.  But what if I didn’t really need to buy anything?  Would I really be “saving” money using the remote charger for free if I end up spending money during an “unplanned” shopping trip?  I’ve calculated my cost with reliable accuracy for charging at home.  Twelve hours on the charger at home only costs about $0.50.  Any spontaneous purchases at all while “killing time”, and I’ve almost certainly come out behind in the overall savings effort.  There is a branch of the local library within walking distance though.  Spending time there could be done without much fear of spending money unintentionally.  It’s worth mentioning that I’m at home for a long enough duration that I’m not being held hostage by the charger and waiting for the car to have sufficient range before venturing out.

When to Charge Remotely?

There is another recent charger installation that is part of our Park District.  The charger’s location is next to a recreational path that is adjacent to the river.  It’s a good place to go to take a walk.  It was a destination before I owned an EV, and it was a destination before the charger was installed.  Now the advantage is, the trip can be made and the car can be given a charge while sitting.  Since I’m making the trip for a different reason than just to charge the car, it feels justified to plug the car in while it sits.  For my situation, remote charging will more than likely be less than 5% of total charging time over the length of ownership. 

To Summarize

Remote Charge When…
·         You cannot get home or to next destination on current range.
·         A charger exists at a location you are going to (for non-charging reasons).
·         You are not going to incur extraneous costs just for the sake of using the charger.

Are Remote Charging Stations Critical?

Like so much in life, it depends.  For me, and I’m sensing for many others, there is little occasion to need to charge while away from the house.  Yes, I will concede that a person who’s intent is to drive round-trip distances that are beyond the range of the vehicle will need to recharge somewhere along the way.  So far, my car typically gets charged twice a week.  There are many weeks where I could have gone with a single charge.  I tend not to charge to full battery capacity, nor do I use the car until the power level is severely depleted.  What about the longer-range commuter?  I would fully endorse an owner who planned to drive around 40 miles each way to and from work.  Provided they had a place to recharge at work, this would be one of the best scenarios for getting the most value out of an electric car such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.  The argument changes slightly since it switches from public charging terminals for the population at large to “semi-public” charging terminals intended for just employees of a company.

As an advocate, I’ve often wondered if it would be in the interest of the Electric Vehicle “Movement” to encourage companies with a local presence to invest in EV charging infrastructure.  I know that I would not likely be able to take advantage of the charging myself, for the reasons stated above.  Therefore it would appear that my motivation is to see EVs succeed at growing in acceptance and ownership.  A couple companies that have already shown support and have a local presence are Walgreen’s and Kohl’s.  In the eyes of the merchant, what needs to come first?  The cars or the chargers?  Rockford has a Nissan dealership that sells the Leaf and a Chevrolet dealership that sells the Volt.  It also has a Mitsubishi dealership, but unfortunately it doesn’t carry the i-MiEV.  Is that enough to warrant the investment in infrastructure upgrade?  Kohl’s has two stores locally.  It wouldn’t be nearly as cost intensive to add chargers as it would be for Walgreen’s which operates several stores across town.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


An Informative Rant

Don’t expect the car dealership to have your best interest at heart.  Before getting too negative, I will clarify that our salesmen has been excellent.  He even delivered my license plates to me which spared me from a 90 mile round trip drive.  It was a drive which would have been beyond the limits of the i-MiEV without recharging somewhere along the way.  It turns out we even went to the same high school, separated by quite a few years though.  So luckily it wasn’t that far off his normal course of travel to bring over the plates.  But once you move beyond the salesperson, it gets more difficult to find someone that values the customer’s interests above the dealership’s interests.  That is not to say that it should be different.  It’s the formula that typically keeps the dealership in business.  The point is: the dealership is on your side only to the extent that it benefits them. 

The source of my angst, you ask?  As part of my due process, I learned that in the state of Illinois, electric vehicles are eligible for an $81.50 annually lower license plate fee.  My mistake was in thinking that the dealership would be aware of this and know how to process the proper paperwork.  WRONG.  While dealing with the finance guy, I asked about the reduced fee.  He didn’t have a clue.  The extent of his help was guessing that maybe at the time the plates were renewed, the discount would be given.  So I was charged $99 for newly issued Passenger plates.  It wasn’t until after I had the new plates in hand that I researched deep enough to finally get the answer I was looking for.

The Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) web site does not provide any links to information about registering an Electric Vehicle.  I even called to ask the question to a live person.  They didn’t know about Electric Vehicle plates either.  (see bottom of blog for a number I was later given to call)  So maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on the finance guy at the dealership.  The SOS employee did know about “Low-Speed Electric Vehicles” and the fact that they had separate plates and reduced fees.  But those are vehicles that have a top speed between 20-25 MPH and are restricted to driving on streets with either a 30 or 35 MPH maximum speed limit but are allowed to cross streets that have up to a 45 MPH speed limit. 

Finally, after searching numerous terms using Google and Yahoo, I found a shred of documentation that referred to the SOS pricing for Electric Vehicle plates.  Prior to the critical discovery it was hit or miss as to whether or not they even existed for Illinois.  The SOS web site shows “all” the types of license plates issued by the state, but does not include Electric Vehicle plates.  One type of plate shown is the Exempt Vehicle plate which uses the letters “EV” to show the designation.  I’m not sure what it’s exempt from, but it wasn’t looking too promising that there would also be an “EV” used simultaneously for Electric Vehicle.  The letters “EL” end up being the ones used for EV’s.  And the shred of documentation I finally discovered was a pdf of a cost sheet for license plate rates.  The search term was "il sos calendar registration fees", and currently it is the first link using Yahoo.

Illinois License Plate Fees

What I should have been charged was $27 for newly issued Electric Vehicle plates.  The plates are two-year issued plates and always expire in December of odd numbered years.  The $27 comes from ‘prorating’ the cost for being issued in the second of four periods stretched over the two-year issuance timeframe. 

What will it take to correct it?  Well, I stopped at the DMV on Friday afternoon to find out.  It wasn’t their mistake, so they won’t issue a refund.  Essentially, the plates need to be reclassified.  To reclassify them costs $27 for the new plates plus $29 to handle the paperwork.  Another $56 in addition to the $99 that I was erroneously forced to pay when I bought the car.  (Totaled together, it would be $128 in excess of what the original amount should have been.)  That’s if I wanted it fixed now.  Or I could wait one year until my current plates expire (August 2013), and have them reclassified then.  That would only save me $18.  (But I would also be paying $35 at the end of 2013 for plates for 2014-2015.)

On Friday, I left a voicemail for the Business Manager at the dealership.  I tried to explain the situation and asked if they would pay to have the plates reclassified.  I’m really hoping for a response within a week.  Was the fact that this happened, my fault for not knowing all the information at the time of purchase?  Is the blame theirs for not filling the paperwork out correctly? 

My Goal: A better informed public.

Regardless, hopefully this is read by a future electric vehicle purchaser in Illinois before they get to the dealership.  Hopefully this is also read by electric vehicle dealers serving Illinois customers in the hopes they correct their methods.  Of course, if the owner desires passenger plates (and the $99 annual fee that comes with them) over EL plates, they are allowed to use those.  Maybe someone doesn’t want the added attention that the plates may add.  Maybe they will opt for vanity plates, personalized plates, or a different style of specialty plates.  My preference is to save money year after year.  The car is going to attract attention with or without the plates anyway.

And just so I don’t become another source of information that states that Illinois offers lower rates for electric vehicle plates, but fails to communicate HOW to obtain the lower rate; refer to the pdf image above.  The critical step comes in filling out the APPLICATION FOR VEHICLE TRANSACTION.  Instead of Passenger plates, Electric Vehicle (EL) plates need to be requested instead.  Also make sure the dealership is not automatically collecting $99 for plates.  Many of their computer programs are not set up to handle other fees or the operator is just accepting the default amount.  This is typically well into the purchasing process, after being worn down by the negotiations for the new car price and the trade in price.  So it’s easy to be in the “whatever it takes to get me out of here” phase of the deal.  It may be worth asking up front if the dealership knows about the plates and their lower costs.  It will give them ample time to research before the signing marathon begins.  (Ask for/Look at the finance contract for the correct numbers before getting too far into the process.)

Special thanks to Latonya at the Rockford SOS Drivers License Facility for finding out the corrective action to fix the plates.

Special thanks to Agnes Mrozowski for providing the SOS Special Plates division phone number.  It is 214-782-7758.  (By the way, that wasn’t the number I had called earlier when I talked to an SOS employee about the plates.  This number was provided later.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Initial Performance Numbers

For Better or Worse

Using my Motorola Droid X and an application called Car Performance, I tested the i-MiEVs acceleration.  This was as much of a test of the application loaded on my cell phone as it was the Mitsubishi's speed test.

For comparison, here is a link to a site with 0-60 MPH times (and 1/4 mile times) for many vehicles. 
Keep in mind that very few people treat every stop light like a drag strip.  This electric vehicle is not designed to be the quickest off the line, but rather to accelerate modestly and get up to four passengers around town without ever needing to visit a gas station.  A feat which it accomplishes handsomely.

Here are the results from testing performed in a very unscientific manner...

The test conditions:
  • 58 degrees F ambient temperature
  • 65 MPH highway entrance ramp (not true straight)
  • single occupant
  • dry road
  • road slope: even
  • wind: calm
  • drive mode: Drive
  • 65 PSI tire pressure
  • 4 bars of charge at start
The results:
  • 0-20: 1.500 s
  • 0-40: 5.487 s
  • 0-60: 11.432 s
  • 60' in 3.502 s @ 35.33 MPH
  • 330' in 7.419 s @ 50.06 MPH
  • 1/8 mile in 11.437 s @ 60.30 MPH
  • 1000' in 15.413 s @65.48 MPH
  • 1/4 mile results don't apply since the car was not still accelerating above speed limit
I expect to repeat the test in the future (and get better results), maybe an early Sunday morning before traffic becomes an issue.  The next test will be repeated in the opposite direction to account for wind and slope variations.  Testing will also be conducted using "Eco" driving mode. 

As for the Car Performance app, it worked very well for my purposes.  It is simple in operation so there isn't any distraction while driving.  The app works with GPS to calculate speed and times.  There is a "START" button that is pressed while stopped, and the timer starts when the vehicle starts moving.  It offers the ability to store tests, which is why I'm able to report my results.  There are a few other results that it has that would be of interest to the the hypermiling side of the equation.  Those are maximum speed, distance, and total run time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Operating cost for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV just got cheaper

Astrological Event - Mitsu matures in Virgo

The planets must be nearing alignment because things just keep improving in the realm of the Mitsu. 

To recap previous “events”:
·         $7,500 Federal (U.S.) tax credit
·         $3,000-$4,000 Illinois state refund
·         $81.50 reduction in license plate renewal fee for state of IL
·         $4.00 a gallon gas (that the Mistu will never have to worry about)
·         0.0% interest for 48 months on vehicle loan

What’s the latest improvement?
            48.8% lower residential electricity rates!  Prior to the new rate, the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity was $0.0911.  The new rate is $0.0466.  The reason for the rate reduction was the elected officials from the city of Rockford supporting an aggregation program with ComEd, our local electricity supplier.  Here is how the operating costs are affected.  My calculated cost per mile, for electricity only, was $0.022, (2.2 cents per mile).  Why state “for electricity only”?  Because an alternative way to calculate cost per mile would be to include things like insurance, license plates, (long pause while I try to think about what else the Mitsubishi requires) no to oil changes, no to radiator flushes, no to tune ups.  It will need new brakes eventually.   See the blog on hyper-miling and regenerative braking to find out how brake pad use is reduced.  So getting back to topic, the new cost per mile is essentially $0.011, just over one penny per mile.  Compare that to a gasoline powered car that averages 25 MPG and uses gas that costs $4.00 per gallon, which computes to $0.16 per mile.  I have gone from being more than 7 times cheaper to operate to being over 14 times cheaper.  Imagine the euphoria if the price of gas suddenly and permanently dropped to $2.00 a gallon.  Then drivers of gas powered cars might experience what I'm feeling.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hypermiling in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV

As if electric vehicles (EVs) weren’t already energy efficient enough compared to their gas powered siblings, there are ways to extend even more range out of a charge.  Hypermiling is the act of using conscious actions to go farther by using less energy.  Several mechanisms exist for active hypermiling.  And there are a few other passive mechanisms that have been employed by others.  For the purposes of this discussion, “active” refers to actions that take place while driving and “passive” refers to actions that take place outside the actual act of driving but influence the driving range.

Active:  Hypermiling should be thought of as a challenge to see how far one can make a charge last.  But the activities described below should not be performed where the progress of other drivers is unduly impeded.  For example, don't pull out in front of oncoming traffic and accelerate at a pace so slow that it causes traffic to slow down behind you.  Either accelerate at a normal pace or wait for a larger gap.
·         Regenerative braking: This feature is not an option for non-electric vehicles.  Instead, non-electric vehicles with a manual transmission have the option of engine braking.  It is essentially the same action, but regenerative braking will not just slow the car down, it will return power to the batteries.  The biggest returns are gained from the highest speeds, and below 11MPH there is almost no recovered energy.  In regards to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, there are three forward driving modes. 
o   Drive: Offers minimal regenerative braking.  In exchange, the slowing of the car when the accelerator is lifted is less abrupt.  This is the least used mode for the purposes of hypermiling.
o   Eco: The regenerative braking during Eco mode is between that of drive and Brake mode.  Eco mode also restricts the amount of power delivered to the motor which results in slower acceleration, but also less power consumed and thus longer range versus quick accelerations.  Eco mode is where almost all of the acceleration is performed and some braking is done.
o   Brake: The regenerative braking in Brake mode is the most aggressive of the three.  The response is not as harsh as someone stabbing the brakes.  It is closer to down-shifting one gear with engine braking on a manual transmission on a car with an internal combustion engine.  For the lone occupant in a vehicle it is not an issue.  If one or more passengers are along for the ride, it wouldn’t be advised.  The acceleration available in Brake mode is equal to that in Drive mode.  The majority of braking is done with Brake mode.  The balance is done in Eco to slow down more gradually and in Neutral to coast before coming to a stop.
·         Neutral/coasting:  Given that any of the three driving modes above will result in some regenerative braking (above 11 MPH), putting the transmission in neutral will allow the car to coast. It uses no battery power to propel the car forward, but also won’t receive any increase in battery charge.  Coasting in neutral would be most advantageous when going down a slight incline where vehicle speed can be maintained by gravity and the slowing caused by regenerative braking would not be desired.  Coasting can also contribute to range extension by putting the car in neutral around 11 MPH and coasting to a stop.  This technique takes time to develop since the operator needs to determine the distance from the eventual stop to begin coasting.
·         Shifting:  The truly "active" part of hypermiling is the act of shifting between the modes mentioned above.  Driving in only Eco mode would provide more range than driving only in Drive mode.  But to squeeze even more range out of the batteries, shifting between modes at the proper times will be crucial.  Shifting and anticipation are physical and mental counterparts to the range extending exercises.
·         Speed:  The slower a vehicle travels, the less energy is used to propel it.  Hypermilers rarely exceed the speed limit and several will travel about 5 MPH below the speed limit providing they are not holding up traffic behind them.
·         Acceleration:  Contrary to what the media might portray, electric vehicles are not slow by nature.  An electric motor has its full torque available at any rpm range and does not have to ramp up to achieve maximum torque.  That being said, if a driver is easy on the accelerator, longer overall range can be obtained by slower paced take-offs.  Using Eco mode to accelerate makes the task easier.  Driving efficiently could be visualized as driving with an open container of liquid.  Not as in 'don’t get caught with an open can of beer', but as in 'you have a bowl of hot soup in your lap'. If you accelerate too fast or brake too hard, the chances are some soup will spill.  The optimal rate to accelerate is close to that of a fully loaded semi truck or cement truck.  Likewise the optimal rate for braking is to use regenerative braking down to about 11 MPH, then apply the brakes to come to a complete stop.
·         Route:  Elements that can affect which route to choose are factors such as the number of traffic lights or stop signs, elevation changes, congestion, distance, average speeds, and elapsed time.  Here is a breakdown of how each influences the decision.  These are things that can apply to internal combustion engines (ICE) too.
o   Traffic lights: Let’s assume roads with two-way traffic are being used.  Turning right at intersections offers the best chance of uninterrupted driving.  Cars turning right on green have the right-of-way and in addition many traffic lights have a right turn arrow light while cross traffic is provided a left turn arrow.  If you catch this “bonus time” you can continue on your way.  If you are on a side street where the light is triggered by the presence of a vehicle, you may be able to proceed before getting a green light by waiting for a clearing in traffic.  The next best action at a traffic light is to go forward.  If equal time is given to each direction of traffic, a driver has a 50/50 chance of approaching a green light.
o   Stop signs:  Picking a route where cross traffic has to stop, but travel in your direction does not is the optimum condition.  In terms of EV’s, a 4-way stop is not much different from a stop where cross traffic does not have to stop.  An EV does not get penalized for “idling” the way an ICE does.  The positive side to stop signs are the opportunity for some regenerative braking.
o   Elevation changes:  A flat course is better for overall range than a hilly course, given both routes are an equal distance.  At some point there will be a trade-off where a shorter route over a hill is more economical than a longer route around the hill.  Absent any serious mathematical computations, simple trial and error may yield clear benefits of one method over the other.
o   Congestion:  The penalty for driving on congested streets is higher for ICE’s than for EV’s.  EV’s get a little pay back from stop and go traffic due to regenerative braking.  But having creep forward then stop through two or three traffic light cycles to get through an intersection is inefficient driving.
o   Distance:  The distance factor is a culmination of trying to find a route that offers the advantageous parts of hypermiling without having to go too far out of your way to achieve the results.  For example, it usually isn’t more efficient to drive three extra blocks to avoid a stop sign for the sake of being able to make continuous forward progress.
o   Average speeds:  Sometimes you can get away with driving 35 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.  By that I mean without holding up traffic behind you and becoming a menace to the roadway.  Hypermiling is about getting somewhere efficiently, but without being self-righteous and denying others their right to expect unimpeded progress.  Other times you could choose to use back roads or residential streets while traveling parallel to surface streets.  The lower your ‘traveling’ average speed (does not include acceleration or braking), the higher your overall range.
o   Elapsed time:  Elapsed time:  If a person isn’t using accessories such as heater, air conditioner, or radio, then the elapsed time is not too much of a factor.  However if using devices that will shorten their range, the route decision must also factor in total time the vehicle is on.  Just sitting at a stop light isn’t penalized if the A/C is off.  But if it is running, then you want to find a route that minimizes overall travel time.
·         Anticipation:  What does one do when the traffic light ahead has the ”DON’T WALK” light flashing for pedestrians?  It usually means the crossing light will become steady followed by the traffic light turning yellow.  Anticipation factors into hypermiling because the driver will have to determine if they can get to the intersection before the light turns yellow or if they should begin slowing down early.  If the chosen route has a sequence of traffic lights that are timed and require traveling at a certain speed or accelerating at a certain rate to not get stopped, then this consideration can trump the slow acceleration argument.  Another situation you may be faced with is when approaching a left turn.  If you spot a gap in traffic, it may require accelerating or decelerating to time the gap.  Sometimes a driver may have to carry more speed through a corner than is typical in order to turn earlier rather than come to a complete stop and wait for another opportunity to turn.
·         Accessories: Never place hypermiling above safety!  If the defroster is needed to be able to see out the front windshield, then use it.  But using the heater or air conditioning will reduce your range.  When looking at the estimated range on the i-MiEV, one can see the range decrease as the fan speed increases.  The lesson here is; if you use accessories that aren’t essential, your range goes down.  The Mitsubishi does have a seat heater for the driver.  They state that it is more energy efficient to use the seat heater to warm the driver than to use the vehicle heater to warm the entire cabin.

·         Tire pressure: Conventional wisdom/Documented evidence states that if your tires are underinflated, the vehicle’s fuel/energy economy is reduced.  Some hypermilers look at the situation and apply extrapolated logic.  Overinflated tires should increase fuel/energy economy.  And probably they will.  But how much pressure to add above stated levels?  The drawbacks are the risks from overinflated tires.  What is the burst pressure at which the tire will blow itself off the rim?  Since tires heat up while traveling and that forces the tire pressure to increase, a static tire that is overinflated may not be a hazard.  In fact many people overinflate their tires while storing a vehicle to reduce the chances for getting flat spots on the tires.  But an already overinflated tire may reach burst pressure while traveling.  In addition to the safety risk is the financial risk.  Will an overinflated tire wear faster (at least locally if not uniformly) than a properly inflated tire.  The cost of early tire replacement could outweigh any financial gains from saving a few cents during recharging.  Lastly is ride comfort.  The higher the tire pressure, the stiffer the vehicle ride which typically transfers motion to the occupants.  With the caveats out of the way, the debate remains.  Should it be done?  How much could be done?  I am only informing others that it is being done.  I am not endorsing the practice.  But other anecdotal evidence is the fact that many SCCA racers routinely inflate the tires on their race cars to 40-45 psi.  And while they do worry about burst pressure and blowing out a tire, they are not as concerned about tire wear and a smooth ride.
·         Extra weight: How extreme can it get?  The i-MiEV does not have a spare tire; it has an emergency tire inflation kit.  Basically a can of Fix-A-Flat.  Part of the rationale could be the fact that the front and rear tires have different profiles.  The front is 145/65R15 and the rear is 175/60R15.  But unless it was a full size spare, it really only has to worry about fitting the same bolt pattern since it is for temporary use.  But in addition to saving cost for the manufacturer, it also saves weight; and that means requiring less effort to bring the car up to speed.  By the same token carrying around unneeded and unused items should be avoided.  I’m not advocating removing the interior door panels to shave off pounds or buying carbon fiber body panels to replace metal ones.  Just don’t carry around a 40 pound bag of dog food for three weeks.