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Me and My i-MiEV: Mark's daily blog

Fri, 23 Jul 2010

Senior Editor (West Coast) Mark Vaughn is spending the summer in a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. he's chronicling his days and nights in the car in this blog.

June 28

The i-MiEV was delivered June 28. Quite exciting. New technology with which I will live for three months. I canceled all my other cars and will try to drive just this until September 30. That includes my regular 22-mile commute to work, 22 miles back home, and whatever else I need to do to get around. Longer trips will fall to the family minivan.

What is an i-MiEV? It is the electric version of the i, i being the name of the gasoline-powered mini car of the same body but different powertrain that is sold in Japan. It is in the kei class of vehicle, the smallest they have over there. We here in America have been introduced to B-Class cars like the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. The kei class is one smaller than those.

The gas i in the Japan market has a rear-mid-mounted 660-cc internal combustion engine. This electric i-MiEV I am driving has a 47-kw permanent magnet electric motor driving the rear wheels powered by a 16-kWh lithium ion battery pack.

The rest of the name, after the lower-case i, stands for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle. It's pronounced “eye meev,” which means “stinky egg” in German, by the way. Tell a German person you drive an i-MiEV and they'll be aghast. Or maybe they'll laugh, assuming you can find a German with a sense of humor.

The i-MiEV goes on sale here in fall 2011, also known as the 2012 model year. Price will be less than $30,000. Approximately $15,000 of that price is for the batteries. Batteries for this car are astronomically expensive because they're all made by hand right now. Mitsubishi says once a battery factory is built and some automation comes into the process the price will come down.

I would buy one of these if I needed a commuter car. It fits my needs exactly with plenty of excess capability. It can seat four real adults. There is plenty of head and elbow room. The only thing lacking is rear seat legroom but it is not cramped back there by any means. The U.S. spec car will be four inches wider, not because there's any lack of room inside but because it'll have to meet side impact standards and will need that room to do so. To get the four inches Mitsubishi will split it lengthwise down the middle and widen it. There is all the room you need inside this thing right now. I fit no problem and I have trouble sitting upright in many a fine normal car of much larger size, especially if that fine normal car has a sunroof.

The i-MiEV arrived on a flatbed truck, with a full charge. I immediately drove it gingerly 23 miles to Pomona to test it. By the time it got there I had used up almost half the charge. There was one bar above half.

I assumed that a facility like the LA County Fairplex would have a 240-volt outlet so I could plug it in, top it off and then test it with a full charge (it turns out the state of charge, full or half, had no effect on how quickly the car accelerates, so I needn't have been concerned). I summoned the electrician. He brought me to a 220--or was it 240-volt--outlet that was used for “motor homes.” That was where I learned that the i-MiEV uses a 20-amp connector and the Fairplex is wired for 30-amp connectors. The actual plug on a 20-amp connector plug is smaller than that of a 30-amp plug. So no dice. I plugged it into a 120-volt outlet, but who were we kidding? That would have taken about 4 or 5 hours to get back up to full charge. I tried it for an hour at 120 volts and the gauge didn't budge. Like I said, the motor goes just as fast and powerfully with a half charge as with a full, I later found out from Mitsubishi. So I went out and tested on the electric equivalent of half a tank.

I did the whole phalanx of AutoWeek AutoFile long-term-car tests and got the following:

0-60 mph: 11.9 seconds

Quarter-mile: 18.7 seconds @ 72.6 mph

60-0 mph: 159.6 feet

Slalom: 38.3 mph

Skidpad: 0.62 g

Those numbers are nothing to write home about. It's possible to set up an EV for performance, so they're not inherently wimpy. You can also design them for efficiency, as was this one. Even with the old Corbin Sparrow, the Corbin technician told me, you could crank up the amps and go fast, but that the motor on that one-seater was set for more range. Everything is a compromise. Go quicker and you eat range. Slower and you can drive all day. More or less.

The acceleration numbers are way better than a gasoline-powered, 660-cc, three-cylinder Smart ForTwo, though, which went from 0-60 in 14 something. But the i-MiEV is far slower than a Tesla roadster, which is more than twice as quick if I remember.

I must've put about three or four miles on during testing at the Fairplex, including maximum acceleration runs and all that, which was a big drain on the battery I'm sure. It ate up about three or four bars so I was down to about 1/3 charge when I left. I crept along in the slow lane at 90 km/hr or 55 mph for 23 miles to get from the Fairplex to my house. At about 19 or 20 miles into my drive home the gauge was at one bar and flashing at me, but I made it home.

My first recharge! Recharging was about a million times simpler than I'd thought. You don't need a 240-volt Level II or 480-volt Level III “fast charger.” Your car is parked all night, right? So just use 120 volts and charge away at a reduced rate. I plugged it in at 5:30 p.m. that first night. By 10:00 p.m., 4.5 hours later, I checked on it and it was almost half charged. By the next morning it was fully charged, of course.

June 29

I am now in my office, which is 22 miles from my home. It used up about 1/3 of its charge to get here, with the air conditioning running. It has been plugged in to a 120-volt outlet in the building's parking structure for seven hours. I have to assume it's fully charged by now.

For me, the range of this thing is not a problem. In fact, I could live twice as far away and not have a problem. (You got a problem? I ain't got a problem. You got a problem?)

July 1

I drove it to Burbank airport. Hit speeds of 130 km/hr, or 80 mph with ease. I don't know why I have been reticent to go fast in this thing. If you don't need to conserve battery power there's no reason not to floor it. Top speed is supposed to be 83 mph but it feels like it could go a lot faster than that. Will try top speed when an opportunity arises. Eats up more power at those speeds, though. Hard to tell exactly how much more, since there's no detailed readout of power usage, just the bars on the “fuel” gauge. There is also an analog dial that shows what you are doing at any given moment in your drive. The dial swings to “charge” if you're off the accelerator and the motor is recharging the battery using the kinetic energy of the car rolling to a stop; “eco green” if you're driving in a conservative manner; or a colorless non-eco state if you're flooring it.

My first several drives were done at about 55 mph to conserve energy. No need to do that unless you think you might not be able to recharge quickly.

At the Burbank airport I parked it at my usual parking garage, an off-site facility across the street from the terminal. The site is not set up specifically for EVs, but the guy at the gate pointed me to an outlet. Using my long blue heavy duty extension cord I plugged in, locked it up and headed to my flight, a Mitsubishi trip, ironically. When I get back, assuming someone hasn't stolen the cord, it'll be fully charged and ready to go.

A couple things I would like to see on the production version are:

-- A little light on the charge plug to show it's getting juice. You can look inside on the dash and see a charge light and you can see, at first, the state of charge gauge but I'd like to see a faint green light showing there's juice flowing, followed by maybe an orange light that tells you when the battery is fully charged. This would be so you don't have to go out to the car, open it up, turn on the key and look at the state of charge gauge. My kids' RC cars have that.

-- Cruise control. it would make commuting much easier and might even extend range.

-- A clock somewhere on the dash. Could just be an LCD clock. A temp gauge for the outside air would be nice, too.

-- Left-hand drive! This is coming of course, but driving on the wrong side of the car is a bit awkward, especially at toll booths and parking garages.

July 2

Last night at the airport, the car was fully charged and no one had stolen the high-tech multi-pronged plug. So I rolled up the extension cord, tossed it in the back and drove home. I hit 140 km/hr, or 86.8 mph on the freeway. That was with a slight downhill assist, so it can't go into the record books. The car felt relatively stable at that speed, just a bit of wandering side-to-side, which could have been caused by the rain grooves in the freeway surface, which I have felt effect the straight-line stability of other cars, too. Or it could have been because of the low-rolling resistance tires. Or both.

The drive home was only 21 miles, so I didn't even plug the car in overnight. There was more than enough to get into the office and drive to work today. The 22 miles to work ate up less than half the bars. So that's 43 miles to eat up a little more than half the indicated charge. The car is now 25 stories below me in the parking garage plugged in to a 120-volt outlet down there. When I go home later today it'll be fully charged.

This brings up a moral question: is it wrong to steal other people's electricity? Yes, it's wrong. But the airport parking guy knew I was plugged in and didn't object. I asked the management of the building in which I work about charging here and they never got back to me. So is that wrong? Once we get thousands of EVs on the road someone's going to have to address this, figuring out a way to charge people for electricity. You might also see locks on electrical outlets the way locking gas caps popped up on cars during the 1973 oil embargo. Heck, even trash bins have locks on them, at least here in L.A. But as for now, no one seems to care about a little juice.

July 6

After getting a full recharge at the 120-volt wall plug in the parking garage at work I drove home and only used maybe three bars. It was about 3/4-full when I got home that night. I didn't plug it in all weekend and it still had that amount of charge when I went to Southern California Edison (SCE) for a meeting today. It was a short drive on city streets. I thought it would be fun to plug in directly to the Southern California Edison company tap and get some free juice from the very people everybody has to pay for volts. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get into the charging area (SCE has more security than the Berlin Wall), one of the SCE people I was meeting with came down, swiped a card, a gate opened and I plugged into 120 volts straight from the source.

Turned out it was no different than any other electricity. It's all the same. Like gasoline, which all sloshes around in big supertankers until each oil company adds their secret mix of detergents to it and then sells it, backed by some really big marketing extolling how different it's supposed to be. Sort of like those malooks who pay extra to get electricity from “green” sources. Once it's in the pipeline it's all the same, dudes. Oh well.

I was going to meet with some SCE people about preparing Southern California for the coming electric vehicle onslaught. Talk to your electrician now, if you're going to use 240 volts, they said. You won't need 240 volts, I said.

They asked me as many questions as I asked them. The thing I was most impressed with after a week in the EV, I told them, was that I was able to meet all my charging needs using only 120-volt wall plugs and that all the worries I had about needing 240 volts were for naught. If my case is the same as the thousands of coming EV owners, and if they all recharge at night from 120-volt outlets when the rates are lower and the juice is 10 cents per kWh, then everything could be groovy. Ten cents per kWh is amazingly cheap, especially if you've ever cranked an electric generator by hand or by bike pedal. Even those little generator lights that spin on the front tire of your bike take a huge amount of effort. The stuff is hard to manufacture yourself but incredibly cheap when you buy it from a utility.

One thing they said, which has been said before, is that we here in California have electricity that comes from much cleaner sources than they do back East. Naysayers will cite all the coal-fired generating plants in coal-happy West Virginia and throughout the East and claim an EV is no cleaner than a gasoline-powered car. But even there it's still way cleaner, maybe twice as clean.

SCE uses nuclear from San Onofre, hydro from the Pacific Northwest as well as smaller hydro plants in the Sierra foothills, and powerplants fueled by natural gas. Since the decommissioning of the Mojave generating plant several years ago, SCE gets no electricity from coal-fired generating stations. There is even some electricity coming from wind and solar. So you can get much cleaner electricity out here than if you owned an EV back East.

Another point: SCE looked at 12 studies to see how many EVs would be in SoCal by 2020. The high-end estimate is 1 million, which seems completely whack to me, even for 10 years from now. But the low-end estimate is that there will be almost 200,000. That's just in the SCE service area, which is essentially Southern California minus some local municipalities that have their own deals like LA's Department of Water and Power. Even the California Air Resources Board claims in its literature that there were only 4,000 EVs ever in California total. That's from the dawn of the machine age 'til now. Why would the number of EVs in this part of this state suddenly go up to 200,000 or a million? Especially if gas continues to be relatively cheap? I don't see the numbers going that high unless there's another oil embargo bigger and longer than the one in 1973.

SCE also wanted to clarify something about baseline allocation assessment as determined by the government, i.e. billing. My electric bill is going to go up, they said. They produced maps, charts and graphs to show me that the increase I was going to experience in my bill this summer would not be solely as a result of my new electric car. Effective June 1, 2010, the electricity usage zones in which it classifies customers based on how much electricity they are likely to use in a year were redrawn. The deserts use more electricity than the coasts, for instance. As a result of this gerrymandering I am now in a higher cost area.

My previous annual usage cost $651 and my new annual usage will likely be $985. That's for 4605 kWh a year. That last figure surprised me, since I consider myself pretty good at conserving electricity. That's 12 kWh a day. We have a brand new, very efficient refrigerator, a gas stove, gas oven and we line-dry all the laundry. On sweltering summer afternoons we do turn on the air conditioning and it is central air. They said that if you use central air four hours a day for a month it costs $80 a month. But we don't have any of the following high-energy appliances that were also on the list: pool pump and motor ($36/mo), freezer ($24/mo), evaporative cooler ($23/mo), portable heater ($23/mo), clothes dryer ($14/mo), plasma TV ($13/mo), electric stove ($7/mo). The only thing we had was a dishwasher, which was less than $7 a month. So where were we using all that juice? Who knows? I go through the house constantly turning off lights. I blame my kids.

Adding an EV to those costs would seem like it'd be a lot of dough. Turns out it's not that much. And it's still way less than the cost of gas for a gasoline car.

All utilities are approaching the coming electric vehicle in their own ways. SCE will offer three different rate options for households with an electric vehicle:

1. You can stay the same, with your EV charging billed as just another huge, huge hair dryer that's on all night;

2. You can be charged different rates for different times of day that you use electricity;

3. Or you can get a second meter installed free just for your EV and be charged different rates depending on what time of day you charge it.

At the very top of the sliding scale it's 31 cents per kWh (if you left a 1,000-watt hair dryer running for an hour that would use up a kWh of electricity). But that's if you're in Tier 5 usage and I don't know how anyone with a regular house could ever get into Tier 5. We have never gotten out of Tier 1 in our household.

On the other extreme I could be charged as little as 10 cents a kWh for electricity used at night. If I got a separate meter (which is free from SCE) for the car and recharged the car overnight, it'd be 11 cents/kWh billed separately from the rest of the household appliances. If I was billed Whole House Time Of Use and recharged at Super Off-Peak times and was in Tier 1 it'd be 10 cents a kWh. Using the separate meter method, my annual $985 bill would grow to $1,269, if I drove 20 miles a day. But since I drive my EV 44 miles a day minimum, my actual charge with the second meter would be a little over $1,637, or $657 more assuming I recharge at a 120-volt wall plug.

Level II chargers, which recharge electric cars much faster but do it using 240 volts, cost no more to operate than 120-volt chargers, you just get the electricity into your car battery faster. There are some costs involved in setting up your house for 240 volts which are not included in these numbers. But you don't need 240 volts with an i-MiEV, as my experience has shown. So why rewire the house?

Regardless, it's still way cheaper than gasoline. If I use, say, six or seven kWh to get to work and back, at 11 cents per kWh, my daily fuel cost is 66 or 77 cents.

SCE expects to have an online bill estimator up and running by next month. SCE customers considering EVs or plug-in hybrids will be able to calculate the costs of their new rides.

EVs are the second car in a two-car, four-member family. They're the perfect vehicle for commuting. In stop-and-go traffic and wretched freeway misery you might as well drive one of these. Save the planet, or at least cut back on the rate at which you are killing the planet. And maybe reduce some smog. Is that a bad thing?

I still have a minivan at home for all the stuff the EV won't do. I'm not saying EVs will replace cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans, at least not in the foreseeable future. But they can and should be the second car in a family where one or even both parents work. The i-MiEV would suit the commuting needs of my family. My wife could drive it to and from her part-time job then hand it over to me to drive to and from mine. With both of us recharging it at work then plugging it in at home overnight we'd have more than enough range. Or I assume we would have more than enough range, since I haven't tried this full scenario yet.

An update: I have heard from representatives of the building in which I work and they officially do not mind if I use the building's 120-volt outlet to recharge my EV. So there is no moral quandary anymore. At least not at work. I still have no idea how I will expense the electricity from my home outlet. In these early stages of EV-dom, there is still lots of free electricity out there for the poaching. Costco has recharging stations. There are plenty of them. I looked at CalStart's website and got a list.

July 7

Since I got home with more than half a charge last night I didn't plug it in. I ran a couple errands, 10 miles, then drove 22 miles to work. So that's 22 plus 22 plus 10 and I drained the battery. Range is 54 miles during mostly freeway driving with only 10 miles of that being more or less suburban driving. All of it was done gently, no jackrabbit starts. Though I did use the a/c and got as fast as 108 km/hr or 67 mph for brief stretches of freeway on the last 15 or so miles of this charge.

By the time I rolled into my parking place today and plugged in it was down to one bar and flashing, which it had been for the last mile or two. The car is recharging now and should be half charged by the end of my eight-hour shift here at AutoWeek Tower West. I will plug it in when I get home. Or maybe I'll plug it in at the Burbank Airport tomorrow and leave it plugged in when I'm away. 120 volts is not as good as 240 volts but 120 free volts are better than almost anything.

Two more things that occur to me this car needs:

1. A way to crank up the regenerative system manually for more efficient braking. Even in the “B” setting on the transmission I still have to use the brake pedal to stop, which just turns kinetic energy into heat and brake dust. I want to be able to stop using the regen only. On the Vectrix electric scooter I rode a few years ago you could not only do that but you could continue twisting the throttle around and actually go backwards. That was the scooter's reverse. There's no sense in wasting potential energy.

2. It needs a better armrest, for the driver at least. There's nowhere to put your arms when you drive unless you roll down the window and stick your right elbow out.

July 8

Don't get cocky, kid! I drained the battery more than it's ever been drained today. All the bars were gone and the little gas tank icon was flashing at me, with miles to go before I got to VSP Parking at Burbank Airport to plug in. Luckily, traffic was clogged on the freeway those last miles so I crawled along at a battery-saving pace, timing my slow-downs so I could use regen as much as possible and accelerating as slowly as I could without causing cars behind me to rear-end me. I was never so happy to see an electrical outlet in my life. I plugged in, got on the shuttle and flew away. When I return tomorrow it'll be fully charged and rarin' to go. Maybe I'll try to see how far it can go on a full charge. Does it get better mileage in city driving, taking advantage of the regen, or is it better on the freeway? I will investigate.

I had been so confident with the car's range that I wasn't topping it off. I'd leave it in the driveway with half a charge, so certain was I that I could go anywhere I wanted. Well, I can go anywhere I want but from now on I'll recharge whenever I can, just to avoid the anxiety.

Last night, in a real “duh” moment, I counted the bars on the fuel gauge and found there are 16 of them. The battery is a 16-kWh battery. So each bar represents one kWh, right? Of course. Duh.

So if I use 8 or 9 kWhs driving to and from work, and if each kWh costs me 10 or 11 cents if I recharge at night, then my 44-mile round trip to work and back costs me less than a buck. If I drive a gasoline-powered car that gets 20 mpg and gas costs $3.25 a gallon it's about $8.80 or so for the same commute. So an EV costs one tenth or one ninth or so what a gasoline car costs to operate. And there are no oil changes, either. But you do need tires and windshield washer fluid.

First car I got into after the i-MiEV was a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. What a change. Yowzer. I did not feel guilty at all. I suppose some undergraduate ethics major is going to call me a hypocrite. Well, let he who is without kWhs cast the first electroshock.

July 9

As expected, when I walked back to my parking space at VSP parking across the street from Burbank Airport the i-MiEV was fully charged. No problem. It had more than 24 hours to get charged and it can't take more than 16 hours to do it, if you figure one hour per kWh at 120 volts. Again, no need for 240 volts so far.

Drove it home 20.48 miles and it only ate up 3 bars, which I have figured is three kWhs. Having found religion, I am now going to keep the battery topped off. A three-bar charge done at 10 cents a kWh costs me 30 cents. I can afford that. So I plugged it in.

July 10

Drove to Arcadia and back, six miles each way. I kept watching the fuel gauge to see when it would pop over and I would lose a bar. It finally did after about 14 kms, or 8 and a half miles. I'd like a more accurate couple of gauges on this. The 16 bars don't give me enough information. Plugged it in when I got back home. It's been sitting since, fully charged.

I rode the bike to the grocery store, with a big backpack on my back. Used no gasoline but critics will gleefully point out that I exhaled x-amount of carbon dioxide.

July 11

I will take it to work all week, including Wednesday when I go to Santa Monica to drive a Nissan Leaf electric car. I wonder how they'll take to seeing a competitor in the parking lot. Not far enough to worry about range, though I will look for a charging spot in Santa Monica. Should be a lot of them, since that city is supposed to be very EV friendly.

Next Saturday there are a few events in the OC I want to attend, but I have to find 240 volts in order to do it. It's about 45 miles to Irvine. I can get there but I can't get back. I will do a little research, which is all that's necessary to drive your EV almost anywhere, right? I'll see.

In a couple weeks I have to go to San Diego, which is 145 miles away. No way to make that in the i-MiEV. So I'm thinking of driving it to the train station and taking the train to San Diego. That whole process will take longer but I will be able to work on the train instead of cursing the traffic. Maybe it'll be better. Who knows? I will let you know.

July 12

Drove to work with a full charge and with the a/c blasting away. Temperature outside was in the 90s and it was perfectly cold inside. I didn't even try to save kWhs, just spewed them all up and down the freeway. Who needs gasoline? Woohoo!

July 13

I got down to the car to drive home last night at about 11:00 p.m. and found that it had not been charging all day. I had plugged the cord into the wall outlet, plugged the cord into the car and walked off, without peering through the driver's window to see if the little red electrical plug light was on. I had about half a “tank” left so I made it home okay, but it highlights another reason to have some kind of indicator on the cable or better yet on the receptacle of the car that indicates a connection was made and the battery is recharging.

I plugged it in when I got home and at 6:00 a.m. when I went to look at it, it was almost full, only one bar to go. I left it plugged in for another two hours and by then it indicated full.

I drove a few errands then into the office 22 miles with the a/c on and ate up 7 bars, or 7 kWhs. Since that had been charged overnight off peak it could have been 84 cents. Closer scrutiny of the information I'd been given by SCE shows that I pay 12 cents per kWh in Tier 1. My house has been in Tier 1 forever. That could change with the gerrymandering of my bill, but even at Tier 2 the cost is only 14 cents.

The car is down in the parking garage recharging.

Mazda came through with a 220-volt 20-amp plug for Saturday. I will plug into the electrical outlet the powers their tire balancer.

July 14

Topping off the tank seems to work best. By keeping it full I get a lot more freedom and a lot less range anxiety. Today I drove up to Pasadena twice, down to Los Angeles, west to Santa Monica and all the way back to my office in LA. Adding it all up I went 58 miles. After the first six miles I plugged it back in for an hour to top it off, so I can't say I went all 58 on a single charge. But I did go somewhere between 52 and 58 miles on about 10 bars or 10 kWhs. So that's a little better than five miles per kWh. Multiply that by the 16 kWh capacity of the battery and you have 80 miles of range based on how I drove today. A lot of today's driving was on the freeway, about 30 of it with the a/c on. Maybe 20 miles was in stop-and-go traffic. So to go at a theoretical 80-mile range in far-less-than-ideal traffic conditions is pretty good.

Figuring out these numbers is something of an inexact science. With a gasoline car you drive a certain distance, starting with a full tank, then fill up the tank and you know almost exactly what gas mileage you got. Harder to do that with electricity, at least as it is presented here.

Now, about 10 p.m., I'm heading down to the parking structure, unplugging the i-MiEV, which might be topped off, and heading home. Lemmee see--it's been charging six hours so maybe it won't be topped off at 120 volts. It should be two bars from the top of the fuel gauge.

July 15

Last night I wound up leaving the office around midnight. With traffic finally cleared off the Santa Monica Freeway I flew down the road at between 105 and 115 km/hr. That's 65 to 71 mph. I had no a/c on because it was cool enough. But the car seemed to eat the bars at what seemed like a 50 percent quicker rate. I got home 22 miles later having used up six bars (kWh) instead of the usual four or five for the 22 miles home, so that's less than 50 percent higher consumption, but still higher. Normally I would cruise at 90 km/hr or 56 mph, so an increase of 12 mph equals one or two more kWh per 22 miles.

I plugged it in and fully charged it overnight. Today the temperature outside is in the triple digits and the a/c worked like a champion. No worries there. Very impressive.

The front suspension is a skinny MacPherson strut setup and the rear is a DeDion setup with the trailing links giving clearance for the large rear-mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels. This doesn't handle potholes too well. It doesn't get the car out of line, just whangs those things pretty good and gets your attention. The i-MiEV is light, so it's affected more by pothole hits than a heavier car would be. The short wheelbase exaggerates it, too.

July 16

Drove home last night but since it was so hot I didn't plug in the car to recharge until next morning. We had the central air on and I didn't want to blow a fuse in the house. I have no idea if it would have blown a fuse or not. I plugged it in for two or three hours in the morning when our household a/c was off and got another bar or two.

After coming in to work it reads 73.4 kms, or 45.5 miles on 10 kWh, minus whatever it got back in the couple-hour charge this morning.

Total mileage now is 1047 kms, or 649 miles.

At the end of three weeks of possession I still love this thing. I am not smug, I don't drive around thinking I'm saving the Earth, I just really like the efficiency of it. It's a very efficient system. Is there a better way to use energy for transportation than this? I could organize a carpool or pick up hitchhikers. I would do that if there was a way to do it.

Tomorrow morning will be an adventure. I go 45 miles to Irvine and hope I can charge enough juice to go 45 miles back. Might be more if I decide to do Cars N Coffee, too. Might be even more if I try doing Donut Derelicts as well. Don't think I'm going to try anything but Miatafest.

July 17

Driving very conservatively, at about 55 mph, I made it the 76.3 kms (47.3 miles) using only 9 kWh. That's 5.25 miles per kWh. That's also 8.5 kms per kWh.

I wouldn't have made it there and back without a recharge. But thanks to the good people at Mazda R&D, I was able to plug into a 240-volt, 20-amp plug in their shop. I plugged in at 8:45 a.m. with 7 bars showing on the gauge. All I really needed was a couple bars to get back home, but I figured, if I was gone three hours I could get a couple bars from full. But I came back at 11:45 to find that some idiot or saboteur had unplugged my car! Why would someone do that? The unplugging took place late enough that I was able to get a four-kWh charge. I headed home with a luxurious 11 bars to go the 47.3 miles or so it would take to get home.

I made it but not with a lot to spare. The gauge read two bars and had started to flash. Total trip mileage was 153 kms, 95 miles.

Nonetheless, with a little realistic planning and with some help from the good people at Mazda R&D, I was able to take a 95-mile round trip in a small electric car. Other EVs with larger battery packs could go a lot farther.

I plugged it in that night at 10:00 p.m. when electricity's cheap. The wall outlet is 110 or 120 volts.

July 18

At 9 a.m. it was fully charged. I don't know exactly when it achieved full charge but there it was by 9 when I looked.

July 19

Drove it to the airport, 21 miles, with the a/c and the audio on the whole way. Drove about 60 mph or so. It ate about four bars, four kWh. Plugged it in and flew off. So convenient. Imagine parking your car at the airport and the gas tank fills up for you while you're gone.

July 20

Car was fully charged when I got back to it. Drove home at night with the headlights and audio on. Went about 60 to 65 mph. It only used three bars to go just under 21 miles. 7 miles per kWh. Forgot to plug it in when I got home.

July 21

Plugged it in at 6:30 a.m. Rates are still low til 9:00 a.m. Ran a six-mile errand twice. After the first one I plugged it back in, using the more expensive electricity, and topped it off. Left it plugged in until I left on 49-mile trip, which I took at 75 mph with the a/c and audio on. This was extravagant and it ate up 14 kWh. I had thought I'd be able to recharge halfway through my trip but no dice. I am waiting until after 9 p.m. to plug it in.

I weighed it today on fancy electronic scales. It weighs 2,497 pounds, 1,142 front, 1,355 rear. That's pretty light, especially with the batteries. The Jetta I drove yesterday is around 3,000 pounds, or a little more.

Also looked at it on a lift. Front suspension is MacPherson strut. Rear is a DeDion axle. The electric motor is up under the rear end. The batteries are in the middle. It's rear drive.

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