Test Drive: Mitsubishi i Electric Car and Chevy Volt

Electric cars are coming to dealers near you. The question is, should you buy one?

After testing driving the Mitsubishi i Electric Car and the Chevy Volt the encouraging answer is yes. These cars will provide us with energy independence at a lower cost than gasoline, and they are fun to drive to boot.

I chose these two electric cars to drive because the Mitsubishi i Electric Car is a low price entry level model for electric cars while the Volt is a higher end model, having won the 2011 Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Both offer strong competition to their gasoline fueled competitors.

The Chevy Volt is very cool. It looks modern and fast. And it is. I handed it over to a couple of friends who are long term members of the Porsche Club of America. They drove it hard and came away impressed. The car stacked up as a reasonable daily driver for a Porche aficionado.

Plus, this Volt draws favorable attention. I parked it at an upscale restaurant with a parking lot filled with BMWs and Mercedes. The car immediately drew a crowd. What was really fun was to see a $200,000+ Bentley convertible drive by without notice from the enthralled Volt crowd!

At a sticker price of approximately $40K before $7,500 of Federal Tax Credits the Chevy Volt is a very price competitive and cooler alternative to the Mercedes C class or BMW 328. The Volt is not a Prius using electrons. This is a fun to drive car that can go 350 miles before needing a recharge and fill-up that also has as much style as upscale German automobiles.

The Mitsubishi i Electric Car is a value-category killer. It costs $20,500. For that price you get a car that tracks on the road like my college MGB with the ability to seat five.

The reason this car handles so well is that the battery pack is located below your feet. This low center of gravity gives the car great balance on twisty roads. It also accelerates quick enough that you have to keep an eye on the speedometer. The quite ride will fool you into thinking you are doing 30 miles per hour when in fact you are doing 60!

This video interview with Don Herring Jr. an Irving Texas Mitsubishi dealer explains it all. The i Electric Car is a great value that will sell even in the Heart of Texas!

In summary, there are no more technology excuses for America to be addicted to oil. If we want to stop the bleeding measured by the hundreds of billions in negative trade deficit incurred from importing oil, measured by the lives and dollars lost to protecting foreign oil supplies and measured by higher health insurance premiums driven in part from the negative health impacts of tailpipe emissions then Mitsubishi and Chevy are offering us technology solutions that are price competitive, fun to drive and the answer our country has been searching for since the 1974 oil embargo.

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, a company that connects businesses to customers searching for smart, healthy and green solutions. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles green best practices by businesses that are making money and a difference. During 2011 he is implementing Green Builds Business, an 11-city coaching program created by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation with funding by Walmart.

[Image screenshot from Mitsubishi’s website]

Founder of Earth 2017. Author of The Boomer Generation Diet: Lose Weight. Have Fun. Live More that Jen Boynton, Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit , says is "Written in Bill Roth's lovable, relatable tone. A must read for any Boomer who is looking to jumpstart their health and have fun at the same time. I hope my parents read it. "

18 responses

  1. Excellent points. Many like to equate the Volt to the Cruze, a vehicle that has 1/2 the effective price.

    A Volt is to a Cruze as a Macbook Air is to a Netbook. Similar size, different value propositions.

    However, it really should be compared to the BMW 3 Series. I would love to see a direct head-to-head comparison.

    1. Thanks for the comment, you are right on target.

      My experience is that the Volt compares very favorably to the Mercedes C Class or BMW 3 series. Maybe not as fast in straight line acceleration but is that really why most people buy a Mercedes or BMW? The appeal of all of these cars is that they look cool to others. And what a success for going green to have a car like the Volt that now compares favorably for being “cool.”

    2. Why do you compare the Volt to a BMW 3 Series? Performance? I’ve driven many 325s and 328s and have driven the Volt for an extended period of time. The Volt doesn’t even come close to the performance and handling of a BMW 325/328. I like the Volt but this is no surprise. The Volt was designed for a completely different purpose. Cost is about the only thing these two cars have in common. Again, I like the Volt but there’s no need to insult BMW!

      1. Insult BMW? Never, they make great cars. And they outperform the Volt in speed.

        BUT, in terms of being cool, the Volt is a grand-slam home run against most cars including BMW and Mercedes. I parked the Volt purposely in upscale locations filled with expensive European cars. The Volt ALWAYS attracted a crowd. That’s why I compared it to the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C class.

        And while not a sports car the Volt will satisfy the driving enjoyment of most. It has plenty of acceleration, can cruise easily at 75+ miles per hour and tracks the corners. And the Mitsubishi i reminded my of college MGB because its low center of gravity enhances its handling.

        And while mentioning BMW, I had the honor of attending the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Convention sponsored by BMW and what did they chose to talk about in your remarks, their soon to arrive electric cars!

  2. Here’s my experience. I bought a Volt home 1/22/2011 have driven it to work every day and some weekend trips putting about 3,900 miles on it. I have spent a total of $60 on gas in all that time and about $1/day on electricity. I love not having to spend money on dictator owned foreign oil. Say good buy to OPEC, buy and EV or EREV.


    1. Thank you Nelson for your personal experience driving a Volt. Your personal experience is the best testimonial I seen that electric cars like the Volt offer a “cost less, mean more” solution to the restoration of our economy and environment.

      We need more insights like Nelson’s. Readers, do you have a personal experience with an electric car to share??

    2. I agree with your goals there. All of that oil money that we are sending to oil producing regions of the world,… some of that money is finding its way into the hands of terrorists. Because of this, we have to spend more money and American lives to fight terrorism! Sheer madness.

  3. Hi Amazing Volt EREV Fans,

    Allow me to explain how inexpensive it is to drive the Amazing Chevrolet Volt EREV….
    1) If you drive an average of 30-50 miles a day…
    2) If your current used car averages 20 mpg hwy/city combined……

    Then you are spending $250.00 per month in gas at $4.00 a gallon…or will be soon!
    If your current car payment averages $250.00 per month then your net CTD (Cost To Drive ) is $500.00 per month-pretty darn average.

    NOW…….The base lease payment on the standard Amazing Chevrolet Volt EREV is $399.00 a month with $1750.00-2500.00 down US Bank-Ally Bank.

    GET THIS…..You capture the $7500.00 now into the lease as lessor, so…36 months at $400.00 a month =$14400.00! You pay taxes on this amount only in most states…

    YOU WILL SPEND $200.00 a month less each month NOT BUYING GAS!!!
    36 months X $200.00 not spent on GAS =$7200.00!

    FINALLY if you are still with me subtract the gas money saved from the payments to lease and you WILL arrive at a net cost to drive the $39995.00 Amazing Chevrolet Volt EREV of $7200.00 !!
    Pretty amazing, ain’t it……..

    1. Thanks Tom for your amazing analysis and insights!! COST LESS, MEAN MORE. That is the potential that electric cars like the Volt offer to our country searching for a way out of this recession. It saves us money, it enables Energy Independence and since the Volt is made in the USA it creates jobs!!

    2. Bill, this is not such an amazing analysis…
      I like electric cars, and plan on buying one, but your analysis is a bit oversimplified and misleading.
      First, you mentioned a daily driving habit 30-50 miles per day. The Chevy Volt won’t go 50 miles without using gasoline, even GM doesn’t say that, so if that is the range of your comparison, you need to include the purchase of some gas as part of the operational cost of the Volt. A more real world EV only range for the Volt is 30-35mi.
      Second, there is usually a big difference in payments depending on whether you are buying the car or just leasing it, so you should make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Instead of just guessing $250.00 as someone’s current car payment and 20mpg as there average fuel consumption, maybe you should compare the actual cost of leasing (or buying) a comparable gas vehicle and that vehicle’s EPA average fuel consumption. In case of a lease, perhaps you could mention the residual value of the cars after 36 months. Resale value is important isn’t it? You also omitted the cost of the electricity used to charge the Volt and any additional costs of the seperately purchased charging hardware for your home. A good gas car to compare the Volt to is the new Chevy Cruze. The cars are the same size. I’ve test driven both these cars. The Cruze can do way better than a 20mpg average. I’ll report my cost of ownership comparison in a few days. Meanwhile, maybe you could redo your numbers?

      1. Hi Sidney, thanks for your assessment.

        Here’s a couple more insights for all of us to consider. First, I got more than 30-35 miles of driving per battery charge during my test drive of the Volt! Why? Because every time you go down hill or put on the brake the car is recharging the battery. Very cool!

        Another reason is that the car’s dash board is one big computer game. It provides fun feedback on your how your driving is impacting the remaining electricity supply. The game is to drive to conserve energy. The result is a surprising increase in fuel efficiency achieved without noticeably impacting performance.

        In terms of electricity cost for recharging. I was pretty worried about that because I live in a part of the country with higher electric rates. My monthly bill just showed up. As you can imagine being an “energy guy” I keep pretty close tabs on my consumption data. I was shocked to see that there really wasn’t a noticeable increase in my monthly bill. At a $1 per day which others claim is an average cost of electricity for driving electric the impact of recharging the Volt’s battery three times just didn’t register as a big impact. Very cool!!

        Finally, the key to the numbers on electric car technology is that no matter how much they are refined the compelling result is we now have technologies that are gaining in their price competitiveness that can restore our jobs, our economy and the environment.


        1. Hi Bill. The brakes recharge the battery on all of the EVs and hybrids. They all do that.
          The feedback from the dash is nice and very informative (Honda Insight has the same), but I think it is important to remember that a lot of people don’t mind buying an EV or hybrid, if they can just drive it like they would any other car, and still reduce their country’s dependence on oil.
          So, you may have gotten more than 40 gas free miles from the Volt by driving to conserve energy, but the question is what would you get if you just drove it like a regular car? I think that is important because, well,.. that is how it will be driven by the average person.

    3. One more thing, I think it would be great to compare the Volt to more typical hybrids like the Prius or, my favorite cause I own one, the 2010 Honda Insight. The Insight is a lot cheaper, and, if you don’t regularly fill the back seats of your car (backseat headroom), it makes for a great daily driver and commute car. I’m averaging 44.3mpg. The EVs that I’m looking seriously at are the new Mitsubishi iMiev and the Honda Fit EV. The range of these vehicles would fit well with my fairly regimented daily routine. When I break routine, I’ll take my wonderful new 2010 Honda Insight. Looking forward to test driving both of these EVs.

      1. Sidney, really glad you made this observation because driving a Volt is a 1000 times “cooler” than driving a hybrid. Both are great cars. We need both technologies. But in terms of having fun and getting attention, give me a Volt or even the Mitsubishi i.

        1. Hi Bill.
          1000 times “cooler”? Getting attention? Hmmm…
          Well, when I buy a car, I’m buying it because I like it. The only thing that makes a car “cool” to me, is that I like it.
          That said, I wouldn’t buy a Volt because someone else thought it was “cool”. I like my hybrid and I think driving it is plenty “cool”.
          My reasons for buying a hybrid or EV is I guess because I am an electrical engineer and seem to be naturally attracted to high tech stuff, and, as I mentioned above, I want my country to be more energy independent to enhance our national security and economic stability. That’s what makes any hybrid or EV “cool” to me.

  4. I thought the Volt concept was nuts when I first heard about it – but now I’m convinced it’s the only way to  go .  Use a small internal combustion engine to bolster the range of the electric vehicle.  It could use gasoline… or compressed Natural Gas…. or  LPG… or  bio-fuel of some kind…. or in a few years, a small fuel cell as it becomes economically feasible.  This is most definitely the path away from foreign oil. Plus we can build them here (or at least assemble them here).   BRAVO CHEVY for having some freaking vision.  We need a lot more of that these days.

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