Friday, August 31, 2012

2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Range Change

How Far Can You Go?

Unfortunately the last couple charges in my Mitsubishi i-MiEV have had disappointing results in the actual number of miles traveled versus the estimated range after charging was finished.  Here are the numbers.  8/25: Started with 15 bars and finished with 2 bars.  (For the uninitiated, there are 16 bars that reflect the amount of energy available in the battery.  The number of bars showing generally decreases while driving, and is increased by charging.)  The estimated range was 63 miles at the start and 9 at the end for a difference of 54 miles.  Actual miles driven were 45.  9 miles short of the estimated range!  8/27: Started with 11 bars and ended with 0 bars.  53 mile estimated range at start and only a 2 mile estimated range by the time I returned home.  The change in range was 51 miles, but the actual miles driven were only 44.  7 miles short of the range!

The "bars" showing the battery charge remaining is on the left.
The estimated range is shown on the right.

Why is that a big deal?

If a person was only driving around town and never far from home, then it wouldn't be too big of a deal to miss the estimated range.  But I, and I'm guessing there are others also, would like to consider taking their i-MiEV on the road (or would consider buying one if they were confident in how far it could go).  If I pick a destination 50 miles away from home that has a Level 2 charger, and start with a fully charged battery [should have 62 mile range even when using A/C or heat], then I want to be fairly certain I can get there without coasting on electrons the last couple hundred feet.  With just a Level 2 charger at the other end of the drive, I'm already committing to a possible 6 hour stay before returning home.  From Rockford, IL that means I could consider Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg (home of IKEA, Joe's Crab Shack, and the Level 2 charger outside Whole Foods).  Unfortunately, IKEA and Joe's Crab Shack are located on the periphery of the Woodfield Mall complex and pretty much opposite where Whole Foods is located.  To just have to walk the extra distance isn't the issue as much as how much of a hassle it would be to actually buy anything of any bulk or weight and try to figure out how to get it back to the car which is committed to the charger for an extended period.  A bit of a tangent there, but relevant in terms of comparison as to how things are done with ICE (Internal Combustion Engine).  If driving an ICE vehicle, one could easily drive from parking lot to parking lot, which is what I have typically done in the past.

Individual results may vary

I am an advocate of Electric Vehicles (EVs).  If I didn't think they were a worthwhile endeavor, I wouldn't have purchased one.  So am I being critical when I discuss not getting the same driving distance as the estimated range?  No, I am being honest.  There are plenty of other owners with their own experiences.  Many of them share their experiences on  My hope is that I learn, and share what I learn, in regards to how to get the most effective range out of an EV.  An informed and educated public will be able to better decide for themselves what will compliment their lifestyle.

One theory I eluded to earlier was driving in the last quarter of bars (quarter "tank" if thinking in terms of gas) will result in a quicker loss of range than driving during any other part of the capacity band.  My last two driving experiences between charges have resulted in the car entering the last quarter "tank".  The car only has 157 miles total on it now.  The next few times I charge, I will try to drive while using the upper half to upper 3/4 of the capacity range.  It would be better to learn early how to optimize battery usage than to find out after months of travel.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Charging Costs to Date

How much has it cost?

So far $2.09 has been  spent charging  the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV.  That figure was calculated by adding the kWatts (kilowatts) consumed (as measured with a KILL A WATT Power Meter) and multiplying by the cost per kWatt hour.  22.97 kWatts spread over three charging sessions x $0.0911 kWatt/hr electric charge = $2.09.  Once the reduced kWatt/hr cost of $0.0466 takes effect from the aggregated electric bill, a similar level of charging will only cost $1.07. 

How far does that allow the car to go?  Good question.  As of the third charging, 64  miles had been driven with another estimated 44 possible before needing another charge, on 13.21 kWatts of electricity used.  That is $2.09 to drive 108 miles.  With a gasoline engine car producing 25 MPG, and $4.00 a gallon gas, the equivalent amount of money would get a range of 12 miles.  With the future kW rate of $0.0466, the gas car would travel about 6 miles on just over a dollar of gas. 

What would it take to make the cost per mile using gas equal to the cost per mile using electric?  Great question.  If gas was $1 per gallon, $2 would get a 50 mile range.  Gas would need to be about 50 cents per gallon (1/8 of the current cost) to get an equivalent range as electric on a pure cost basis.  I remember paying $0.79 per gallon when I bought my first car.  It was a used 1979 MG Midget with a 12 gallon gas tank.  It could be filled for under $10.  That was back in 1988.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Window Sticker

Is an Electric Vehicle for everyone?

Definitely not. 

Who should consider an Electric Vehicle (EV)?  That depends on your motivations. 

If a person is looking to make a purely environmental statement, then the argument for an EV becomes simpler. 

If a person is looking at an EV for financial motivations, then looking at the numbers is a good place to start.  Let's start with some numbers from the window sticker.  The Fuel Economy is 112 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon equivalent).  The breakdown of the 112 MPGe is 126 miles rated for city driving and 99 miles rated for highway driving.  It is worth mentioning that the estimated range on a full charge is 62 miles (and that value also appears on the window sticker), so even though there is a 112 MPGe fuel economy rating, the actual range is still limited by the size of the battery.  It can be thought of as only having a half-gallon tank.  The vehicle is rated at consuming 30kW hours of power  per 100 miles.  And since the battery has a 16kW hour capacity, the "half-gallon" tank analogy should make more sense.  A few more numbers from the sticker...

You save $9,850 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicles.
Annual fuel cost $550.
The average new vehicle gets 22 MPG and costs $12,660 to fuel over 5 years.  Cost estimates are based on 15,000 miles per year at $0.12 per kW hour.

And now the breakdown of those numbers in terms of who would be an ideal candidate as an EV owner.  (This equation will change for cars with different driving ranges.  But since the i-MiEV is the car that is the focus of this blog, we'll stick with this one.)  Given that the car will travel 62 miles on a full charge, let's use that limitation as the basis for this optimal scenario.  To get the most financial value a person would want to drive as close as comfortably possible to the upper limit of the driving range.  And to say the "most financial value" is to say when it would make sense to drive an EV instead of an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle.  It is not endorsing racking up extra miles without purpose just to add miles to the car.  So the ideal owner would have about a 25 mile commute to work (or school) and home each way.  That would be a 50 mile round-trip distance and would still leave a few extra miles for errands along the way or possibly driving somewhere nearby for lunch.  Those 50 miles a day (250 miles a week) over 50 working weeks a year (2 weeks of vacation is typically a minimum) computes to 12,500 miles a year.  That number is still 1250 miles shy of the 15,000 miles per year number used to compute the $9,850 savings over 5 years.  But the 1250 miles equates to an average of 50 miles for 50 weeks.  So maybe the ideal owner works one day during the weekend also, or finds a way to drive 50 miles during the weekend running errands.  But given that the battery would be down to a 12 mile range or less at the end of the day, it would need to spend 15-20 hours recharging if using 110V household current.  (The 15-20 hour range is just a wild approximation using Mitsubishi's 22 hour value to recharge a fully discharged battery.)  [My initial experience with recharging has been about 1 hour of charging yields 4 miles of driving range.  Using my unproven calculation, 13 hours on the charger would restore 52 miles of driving range.  Given that a 50 mile commute may take 1 hour, and add 8 hours for the work day and 1 hour for lunch, the car would be out of the garage for 11 hours.]  So one work-around would be to have a 220V (Level 2) charger available to recharge the battery in about 6 hours.  Ideally, that would be available at work (even better if it were paid for by the company) since the car sits for 8-9 hours during the work day.  If the owner has to invest in a Level 2 charger for the house, the approximately $3000 installation cost will eat away at the overall savings. 

So what would the new ideal daily driving range be that would allow time for changing at home using a 110V (Level 1) charger?  How about a 40 mile round-trip commute.  That's 20 miles each way.  A 20 mile commute may take about 30 minutes, so that's one hour of driving time per day.  Add 8 hours for the work day plus a generous one hour lunch, and the vehicle is out of the garage for 10 hours a day.  That leaves 14 hours to recharge.  The ideal above departs from the purely "most financial value" formula and tempers it with a bit of relief from not only range anxiety, but also charge time anxiety. 

My own scenario is quite different.  My drive to work is less than 2.25 miles each way.  An entire week worth of driving will only generate 22.5 miles.  If I only drove to and from work, the car could be recharged once every two weeks.  From that viewpoint alone it may not make sense for me to own an EV.  The break-even point versus what I would spend in gas in a car I already own would be decades.  That is where the other motivations play into the equation.  From a psychological standpoint, they could be called rationalizations.  Part of me is frustrated by the comments from anti-EV critics who state the shortcomings of an EV and then make the broad statement that they are unfit for any consumer.  Although I've yet to see anyone present an argument for the one vehicle that serves every purpose a consumer could need to fill.  It would be similar to pointing out that a motorcycle is limited in the number of passengers and cargo it can carry.  Still they are very popular.  If you look at a performance car, the fuel economy or the cost becomes an easy target.  You get the point.  Back to the motivations and rationalizations.  The frustrated part of me is in favor of EV's and I'm casting my vote of support not by words, but by actions.  Buying a product I support is commercialization the way it was meant to be.  It is also gratifying to pass a gas station and know that even if my other cars are subject to the changing market demands that cause the price of gas to fluctuate, the i-MiEV will not have to worry how much the next fill-up will cost.  Additionally, something that car enthusiasts will tell people is that driving a car too short a distance can be bad for it.  Especially repeatedly driving it short distances.  The negatives are caused when the engine does not heat up to proper operating temperature.  Some problems are caused when water condensation is not heated away.  This can lead to water allowed to collect in the exhaust system which can lead to corrosion.  An EV doesn't share this issue, so by commuting with an EV, I am extending the life of my other vehicles.  Depreciation is bound to happen to most cars.  But the ones driven less (or more importantly, driven properly) can retain more value longer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More about charging (recharging).

The city of Rockford, IL just recently approved an aggregate program beginning in September for the billing of residential customers of ComEd, our local electric utility company.  Currently, there are six individual charges that combine to equal $0.0911 per kilowatt hour (9.11 cents/kWh).  The new rate will be 4.66 cents/kWh.  That is a 49% reduction!  A list of other Illinois cities that are pursuing aggregation programs can be found at  The rate is constant so there is no incentive to try to recharge only at night during off-peak hours.  If smart meters are installed, the timing of the recharge may be slightly effected.  However the car is garaged at night so by default, that tends to be the time to recharge.  The i-MiEV does come with a remote for recharging.  It is a separate remote from the key.  The key remote controls locking and unlocking the doors as well as enabling a panic feature.  The recharging remote can be used to control the delay until charging starts and the duration of the charge.  So someone with a smart meter for their electric service could plug in the charger at 7:00 PM, then set the remote to start charging in 2.5 hours, then stop charging 8.5 hours after that.  As time goes on the plan is to try to determine if the battery provides a better driving range between a certain range of energy level bars.  For instance, instead of charging to the full 16 bars every time, a target of 14 bars may be experimented with.  Then the car will be driven until a certain number of bars remain.  The estimated range will be compared to the actual miles driven.  I've read somewhere that the last four bars (quarter "tank") will deplete at a faster rate than any other range of equal bars.  Another feature of the charging remote is the ability to program the car to be heated or air conditioned while plugged into the charger.  The beauty of this feature is the car can be set to a comfortable driving condition without having to use the car's stored battery energy (shorten the driving range).  Another novel feature is the standard feature of a heated driver's seat.  By keeping the driver heated, it uses less energy than trying to keep all the air in the cabin warm.

The remote for setting charging times when the vehicle is "plugged in".

Other than home charging.

There are currently three types of chargers available.  They are Level 1, Level 2, and Quick Charge (Level 3).  The Level 1 and Level 2 ports are both available as standard equipment.  The  Quick Charge port is a $700 option on the Mitsubishi.  Level 1 uses standard 110V household current and a dedicated wall outlet with a 15 Amp circuit is recommended.  The purchase of the vehicle includes the Charge Connector.  That is the device that goes between the car's charge port on the passenger side and the 110V outlet.  The Level 2 port on the car is the same port as the Level 1 port.  To have a Level 2 charger installed in the house is estimated around $3,000.  Most of the public charging stations have Level 2 chargers.  The Quick Charge port is located on the driver's side.  There are not many public charging stations yet that support the Quick Charge.  As mentioned before, Level 1 uses 110V household current.  With this method a fully discharged battery would take about 22 hours to charge.  Level 2 uses 220V, and would take about 6 hours to charge if fully discharged.  Quick Charge stations require 480V, 3-phase DC 80 Amp circuit.  The Quick Charge will take 30 minutes to charge to 80% capacity.  But that doesn't mean the last 20% will be filled in less than 10 minutes.  The Quick Charge won't fill beyond the 80% for battery longevity reasons.

Level 1 and 2 charger on passenger side. (Standard equipment)

Quick Charge port on driver's side. ($700 option)

So, Where can "Other than home charging" be performed?

One of the first web sites to search should be the one that is maintained by the US Department of Energy.  It is  A user types in their location and the map updates with nearby locations.  Some of the helpful information that is provided is the Electric Charging Type, the distance, and the address and phone number of the establishment.  A couple more clicks on the location will reveal the number of chargers and the hours of availability. 

Another site worth researching is  There map shows the number of charging stations for a clustered area.  Picking the numbered balloon will zoom to that area and provide a further breakdown of the chargers location.  This site provides plenty of information.  It will tell if the station is Available, In Use, or a Future or Unavailable location.  The access is reported as either Unrestricted or Restricted.  The price is shown, even for the Free locations.  Users can create an account and can then reserve stations online.  I'll have to report back after trying this myself to evaluate all the nuances.  I've already ordered a ChargePoint Card and it should arrive any day now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Electric Vehicle Intro

On August 22nd, 2012, I  purchased a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV.  In the months and years that follow there will be updates about ownership and random thought concerning electric vehicles (EVs) in general or my car in particular.  What am I doing that is different from most?  For years I've owned a KILL A WATT electricity usage monitor, but not much was done with it.  It's time to put it to good use. Starting with the first recharge after bringing the car home, the KILL A WATT was plugged into the outlet with the vehicle charger.  A spreadsheet is being maintained that will record charging time, kilowatts used, starting and ending "bars" on the Energy Level Gauge, and the estimated range in miles pre- and post-charge.  That is on the charging side of the equation.  On the driving side, the Energy Level Gauge "bars" used, the actual miles driven and the estimated range (after charging, and also before recharging) will be recorded. 

Why an Electric Vehicle?  There isn't one overriding factor that guided my decision to purchase an EV.  In the end, the decision was relatively "spontaneous" compared to the majority of the major decisions I make, or eventually talk myself out of.  For years the idea of converting an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle into an EV seemed like a worthwhile venture.  Research was conducted primarily by visiting websites of Do-It-Yourselfers.  One of the cars I own is a 1992 Mazda Miata.  For a while it was considered as a donor vehicle.  It has many of the right characteristics.  It's light, in excellent physical condition, and it's paid for.  But I've owned it since new and the idea of tearing apart a black Special Edition Miata (one of 1500 made for '92) was difficult to fathom.  I looked into buying a MG Midget to use as a donor.  Previously I'd bought one right before graduating high school.  One negative factor is being 6 foot 3 inches tall.  My knees surrounded the steering wheel then and things aren't likely to have changed over the years.  But another thing I wanted to attempt with an EV was hub motors.  This would mean that the wheels would have motors and the propulsion would happen there.  Not only could the engine, gas tank, and exhaust be removed, but the transmission, drive shaft, differential and axle shafts could come out to lower the vehicle weight even more.  Simple in concept, but research showed that it would be underpowered for the budget I was looking at for batteries.  And the technology for hub motors appears to be unproven with limited supplier sources, none with a reputation for reliability or clear documentation for successful accomplishments.  So to go the DIY route, I would have to invest a lot more money than I had initially prepared for mentally.  And there would still be the entire seeing the project through to completion obstacle.  Too late for long story short, but the next step in research was to search on eBay for electric vehicles.  At the time there was used a Think City for a "reasonable"? price.  It would have been a way to enter the EV world, but the car was located about 250 miles away and would not have been able to be driven home without overnight stops for recharging.  Using a transport would have just added to the cost.  And then there was the issue of the company being in and out of bankruptcy and warranty concerns.  The Nissan Leaf wasn't a candidate, maybe the higher cost was issue.  The Honda FIT EV seemed like a descent choice but was only being offered as a lease and only in select markets (not mine).  The Mitsubishi has a fuel economy of 112 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon equivalent) which is unsurpassed.  While the body is larger for the American market, the platform has been tested and produced in Japan and many other countries prior to entry in the U.S.  And after searching the web sites of "local" Mitsubishi dealerships, it was discovered that it was available.  About a half dozen dealers in the Chicago area had between 5 and 7 models on hand.  The next step was to see what kind of rebates and incentives were out there.  The federal tax credit is $7500 and for the state of Illinois, it appears that 10 percent of the purchase price (up to $40,000 sticker price) is available by rebate.  (Some have stated that the Mitsubishi will get the entire $4000 rebate, but that won't be known for sure until after the state processes the rebate in December (they also process rebates in June).  Also in Illinois, license plate renewal is discounted by $81.50.  So next year instead of $99 for plates, the cost should only be $18.50!  I read a lot of reviews online, then went out to test drive one.  I've strayed quite a ways from why an electric car.  So here are some of the reasons:  I work 2 miles from home.  The grocery store, home repair store, and department stores are 5 miles away or less.  Between my wife and I, we own 4 other cars and a motorcycle, so having access to a gas vehicle for longer range drives is not an issue.  [Besides the motorcycle which is covered year round (insurance company policy) only two cars are insured and the others are in storage.]  The idea of not having to worry about what domestic or international event would cause the price of gas to rise is very appealing.  I like companies that are willing to invest in alternative fuels and supporting them by buying their products is capitalism at its finest.