Shirley Jahad in a Mitsubishi electric iMiev prototype with the steering wheel on the right side.
Today we drive past a new milestone in the development of the electric car. Nissan opens registration today for anyone interested in being one of the first to own the all-electric Leaf. The car goes on sale in the United States later this year. Other auto companies are coming out with electrics soon as well. KPCC’s Shirley Jahad has been test driving a prototype electric Mitsubishi. She shares the story in a series called EV Diaries.
Electric car enthusiasts have been waiting for this day for years.
“You really can’t understate the feeling you get driving a car that doesn’t have a tailpipe,” Zan Dubin Scott says.
Zan Dubin Scott and Paul Scott have been revving up support for electric cars for more than a decade.
“You don’t even have to believe in climate change. We know study after study shows people who live closest to freeways suffer from coronary disease to cancer. And so the first time I got into an electric car it was a head to toe rush of tremendous satisfaction that I was doing something major to contribute to the solution,” Zan Scott says.
The Scotts founded the group Plug In America. I talked with them from their solar powered home in Santa Monica.
“By 2012 there will be a good 30 or 40 electric cars available to buy," says Paul Scott. “This calendar year we have two major cars coming out. The Chevy Volt in November and in December the Nissan Leaf. In 2011, we are looking at the Volvo, the Ford Focus, Mercedes Smart car. Mitsubishi iMiev.”
Mitsubishi’s iMiev – that’s small i Mitsubishi Inovative Electric vehicle. It just went on sale in Japan this month. The company’s North American headquarters is in Cypress in Orange County. I went there to check out a prototype of the iMiev and talk with David Patterson, chief engineer.
He says this car is directed toward families living in cities.
"Urban commuters people in urban areas. London, England, Paris, France . They love this. . It’s a small efficient car that’s what the European market wants." The car needs to be charged after 70 miles, so may not be the best for longer trips. "The iMiev is not solution to all your auto needs," Patterson says. "But what it does solve, it does with quality. We give you 70 miles of quality range. Four passengers and parcels and do it well."
Patterson says the car has "Japanese magic." He says when you look at they iMiev, "you think how am I going to fit. But when inside, it has seating for four full-sized adults. I am 6’2. it will carry four of me in this car. It's very sleek futuristic aerodynamic . Its small. But that’s part of the reason we won the good design award. Very small on outside. Very large on inside.
Inside, it looks like every other car basically. That’s the whole idea. Its like every other car basically. There is one big difference. When you turn the key and start the car, the car is silent. No noise.
"With standard audio system you will feel like you are in a concert hall. Because there is no background gas engine noise. You don’t have to turn it up loud, " Patterson says as we sit inside the prototype iMiev.
Mitsubishi just started selling the all electric car in Japan. It goes on sale in Europe late this year. And they go on sale in the U.S. next year.
Well now we have to turn the radio on …
I drive around the parking lot at Los Alamitos race track. I drive through some mud puddles and pot holes. I enjoyed it.
When should you start to worry you are running on empty? When you see the turtle. He’s warning you if you don’t charge you are down to one bar. Turtle mode. The car will slow down. You will still be able to drive. Slow speed. Next time we take Mitsubishi’s iMiev out on a real test drive.