It’s a warm, sunny morning as I hug the kids before they climb into the school bus and head for class. I grab my laptop and hop into my ride of the week, the 100% electric, 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
As the previous commutes to and fro the office with the Mitsubishi were done avoiding the highway, I decide to try it and see what the resulting range difference will be when I get there. In all EVs I’ve tested so far, the faster you go, the shorter your range will be. EVs, like the i-MiEV, prefer city stop-and-go commuting to maximize range.
I get to the office and hand the key to our photographer Sebastien. The car’s got about 60 km of range left. When he gets back, I’ll plug it in a 110-volt outlet outside the building and stock up another 20 km or roughly enough range to pick up the kids at school before heading for home. No problem.
Turns out that the i-MiEV returned from its photo session with 1 km of range left. One. Eins. Uno. My photog noticed a turtle icon flash as he nervously headed back to the office, which meant he was in limp-home mode and about to discover if his shoes were good for long walks. The location he had planned for shooting the car was unfortunately too far away, and required much highway driving.
Ugh. It’s 11 o’clock, and I gotta leave at 4:30 pm at the very latest if I want to make it to school before it closes. Will it be enough just plugging it in the 110-volt outlet?
In Quebec, we have what is called the Electric Circuit, a charging network of about 100 240-volt stations where the public can top up their EV for a $2.50 flat fee. There is one such station about a kilometre away from the office but there's a catch: you must be a member, and you can only pay with your membership card. After applying for the card, it takes 3-4 days to receive the card through the mail. Darn.
Leaving the i-MiEV plugged in from 11 am to 5:30 pm gave me about 40 km of range or enough for me to get home without breaking a sweat. Luckily, a friend of mine picked up my kids from school, which was my only worry.
The morale to this story? There isn’t one, and that’s the point. Potential buyers of EVs will be scanned by the manufacturers to figure out if they’re EV-worthy. They’ll make sure their customers’ daily commute is short enough so they won’t be stressed out all the time, and have more than enough juice for the unexpected.
I’m all for electric vehicles and they’re quite purifying to drive. However, it requires drivers to change the way they plan out their commute, avoiding highways and mapping out the most efficient routes, not necessarily the shortest. As a city-only car, they’ve got immediate appeal, but until the range in these cars rises significantly, EVs will remain a second car in the suburban driveway.