The electric car concept sounds like a dream. It’s supposed to save the world. A documentary was made to cheer it’s value. Gas? who needs it? I drove the Mitsubishi MiEV for a bit less than a week and found that although the car works, the electricity part – the piece of the puzzle to save the energy crisis, the savior? it is its own Achilles Heel.
The electric car is slowly gaining some momentum. I did some research. There’s been press conferences, press drives, and a bit of news here and there. Myself driving this car is supposed to add to it. The idea? Drive it around and report on it. What can it do? Like most lower priced vehicles that have this “electric car look,” which for whatever reason has to look like a modified golf cart, there’s actually space. I was able to transport items I needed to and from Giant Robot.
The purple version raised eyebrows and charging it from a standard plug that was able to run under the door overnight at Giant Robot raised a few questions, mainly aside from the Japanese stares, people ask, “what is this?” On paper, it’s a great answer. The car to save the planet. But in practicality of living in the maze of traffic and freeways of LA, it’s a worry. It’s sort of like the film buff who drinks a bottle of water at the beginning of a three hour epic. Problems will happen.
The true test of how this car is being embraced and at what pace it’s being supported by the government and private enterprises are the availability of charging stations. At a 62 mile distance before charging and this is driving and coasting and driving again with only you and no extra weight in the car, charging stations are important. You’ll need to map out how you’re going to drive all day and where you’re willing to leave your car to charge.
We ran a test. Can we drive to Donutman and back? Yes, it’s 40 miles. We will need to charge the car somewhere. I downloaded two apps to tell me where charging stations are located. In certain parts of LA, they’re less common. This is LA. They need to be common and not in desolate industrial areas. There’s one located at a power training station. At night, it’s a barren cluster of buildings with not even a soda machine or restroom. The type 2 charging station still takes 7 hours for a full charge. The home version is 22 hours and there’s the miracle type 1 which take a single hour for 80% charge. Where are those and what are those? There seems to be only 1 in California and it’s 500 miles north.
We drove about 35 miles and already needed a charge. The power was running low. Two people in a car, driving on a freeway with a little bit of accident traffic. We pulled up in an Edison training facility, and the security guard who wondered what we were doing said that we’re the first member of the public he’s even seen charging a car. Even at type 2 charging stations, charging is slow. Yes 7 hours for a full charge is long, but waiting for it, is impossible. What is there to do while you wait at Edison?
After deciding to journey on to eat strawberry donuts, and finding another charging station which is pretty much how one will have to use this car, we used the app that told us IKEA has 24 hour charging stations. The next closest choice was 15 miles away in the wrong direction from home. As the Mitsubishi pulls up to IKEA, we realize the gates were down. 24 hours? Yes maybe, if you’re locked in. I called the ChargePoint app customer service line and a human answered! He explained that the gates weren’t there at one time. IKEA all of a sudden installed gates to their parking lot? I called BS and the only thing the fella could do was point me 15 miles away. We made an effort to get to yet another Edison campus by driving and coasting at literally 10 miles an hour and found that although the second app, Blink, pointed us to multiple addresses at another Edison plant, most were still private. A security guard guided as further away to other charging stations, which actually were powering slower (there’s a meter) than the first Edison plant. It was now past midnight.
Mitsubishi does have a tow service. We “tested” it, and an electric car needed a gas powered tow truck to get back.
Mitsubishi MiEV is great for locals, retirees who won’t go far, maybe in a small town or for quick errands, but in LA, with the traffic, the freeways, the roads, you’re going to constantly worry about how much power you have. Your next worry is where to charge the car and how long it’s going to take. The car is great, the concept is also great, but the amount of driving you can do is not enough. Perhaps electric cars are ahead of it’s time and Type I charging stations will pop up everywhere but don’t count on it.