Our article regarding the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV prompted a discussion about what size EV is the right size. As with all things, it depends upon your situation. Perhaps a smaller vehicle is right for you. So let’s take a look at another LEAF alternative – one which is already accepting orders in several western states and is due out in just three months – the Mitsubishi i.
The i falls into the same size category as the Spark EV, upcoming Scion iQ EV and the gasoline powered Fiat 500. Many refer to these subcompacts as city cars due to their small size and expected use as short-distance commuters. When first introduced as a gasoline powered car in Japan and Europe, the i was offered with a turbocharged 660 cc gasoline powered engine. According to one report, Mitsubishi gave some thought to bringing the i to the US with a 1.0 liter three cylinder engine.
Some differences between the i and the LEAF are readily apparent. First, it is significantly smaller. Second, the short nose provides a hint to its rear-wheel drive design. Other differences are less apparent. While the i offers four doors, seating capacity is also limited to four. This may not be a limiting factor for many. The i also offers a significantly smaller battery pack, although it has quite a bit less weight to haul around. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specifics.
While the LEAF weighs in at 3,366 pounds for the entry level SV trim, the i is remarkably less – 2,579 pounds. Rather than write about all of the differences, here they are in tabular format:
|2011 Nissan LEAF||2012 Mitsubishi I EV|
|Overall Length (in)||175.0||144.8|
|Track – Front/Rear (in)||60.6/60.4||55.9/54.3|
|Coefficient of drag||0.29||0.35|
|Wheels (in)||16×7||15×4 front|
|Turning circle diameter (ft)||34.2||30.8|
|Front legroom (in)||42.1||33.8|
|Front headroom (in)||41.2||35.6|
|Rear legroom (in)||31.1||30.0|
|Rear headroom (in)||37.3||34.3|
|Powertrain AC Synchronous motor|
|Peak power (kw/hp)||80/107||49/65|
|Battery capacity (kWh)||24||16|
|EPA range (miles)||73||62|
|EPA mpge (combined)||99||112|
As one can see by the numbers, the i really is a much smaller car. Not only does it carry one less passenger, the passengers that it does carry need to be smaller too. There is over eight inches less front legroom. When combined with the five inch plus reduction in front headroom, that is a significant difference between the two. Certainly seat adjustments will be able to accommodate some of this difference, but it seems that it could be a challenge for those over 6 feet tall. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that Fiat chose to use Jennifer Lopez in their Fiat 500 commercial. They knew that she wouldn’t make the car look too small.
We feel that we need to offer up some kudos to Mitsubishi though. Mitsu developed the i EV in 2006 and made it available to several power companies in Japan as both a research vehicle and a test bed. After several years of real world testing and evaluation in cooperation with Japan’s power companies, the i is already available in 25 countries. With any luck, this will have assisted Mitsubishi in providing a smooth launch in the US. We have already been witness to some of their marketing savvy, as they have already installed a DC quick charge station at Mitsubishi corporate headquarters in Cypress, California well ahead of the cars availability.
Upon reflection, if you’re not too big, and don’t plan on carrying more than four people, the i just might work out for you. While initial indications were that it would cost significantly less than the LEAF, that has proven not to be the case. The entry level 2012 i ES starts at $29,125. This compares to the 2012 LEAF SV at $35,200. But the LEAF includes the cold weather package and a navigation system as standard features. The i ES offers a Cold Zone package for $150 that includes a battery warmer and heated outside mirrors, but no heated seats. Neither i model includes navigation as a standard feature. The top trim i SE starts at $31,125. The SE includes fog lamps, auto on-off headlamps, upgraded upholstery, premium sound and alloy wheels. In addition a Premium Package is available on the SE. The Premium Package includes the Cold Zone features, hard disk drive navigation with rear view camera, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a telematics system with USB connectivity and a DC quick charge port. The Premium Package is an additional $2,790. So the SE with Premium Package is $33,915 plus destination charge. The destination charge on other 2012 Mitsubishi vehicles on their website is $810. This puts the loaded SE at $34,725, or only about $3,400 less than the similarly equipped LEAF SL at $38,100. Less money, to be sure, but not dramatically less, considering the difference in the two cars.
For some, the LEAF with its more spacious accommodations is needed. For others, with a desire for an electric car but without the bells and whistles, the i ES might fill the bill. To see if you fit, and see how it drives, Mitsubishi is offering test drives in these locations. In the end, a purchase of either of these vehicles means one less gas guzzler on the road – something we can all agree on.