Today, the folks at Green Car Journal, the same folks that just awarded the VW Jetta TDI the Green Car of the Year Award, brought dozens of the greenest production cars and prototypes to the show for press drives. Luckily, I was one of the first in line and had the pleasure of taking a few of these new and innovative cars out for a spin around the block.
First up was Mitsubishi's i MiEV, the tiny electric vehicle based on a current kei car in Japan. Right now the vehicles are in town prior to their being handed over to Southern California Edison for fleet testing, and they were definitely drive ready. Mitsubishi stressed that these cars were production-ready models, though they may undergo a few final tweaks before they hit the market in Japan in 2009.
On to the juicy stuff. The test drive wasn't very extensive, but we did get to go out on the mean streets of LA and mingle with traffic. At first I was a little timid at the possibility of getting stuck at lights in a slow, lazy electric car, but I soon found out that the i MiEV was anything but. I've been in the gasoline equivalent of the car in Japan, and I agree with the Mitsubishi reps that the electric version is definitely the sportier of the two.
While it's hard to compare one car to another, the i MiEV is extremely peppy and can shoot down the street from a stop when you really get on the pedal. However, it also comes with an "ECO" mode and regenerative braking mode that allows more conservative drivers to save energy and extend the vehicle range. Even in ECO mode, where I spent most of the test drive, the car has ample power to keep up with the normal flow of traffic. Then, when you release the go pedal the car seamlessly begins regenerative braking and recharging the battery pack.
The car's handling is also exceptional for its class. Though the call is small and tall, the battery pack keeps the center of gravity low and a tight suspension allows for hard cornering and good response. It was hard to believe all the hype, but when compared to the smart fortwo, the i MiEV is definitely in a superior class of subcompact driving experience.
written by Vladan, November 23, 2008
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