GEM stands for Global Electric Motorcars. The company has been making Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) since 1998. The cars, which don’t go over 30 miles per hour, have a rounded egg-like design.
The MiEV takes that styling to the next level. It’s a full-sized electric vehicle that has a look that is truly unique on the American roads. It’s the kind of shape that looks more at home on the streets of Tokyo.
But just as the GEM car has limits, so does the MiEV.
I’ve written before about how I’m not sure I can adapt to driving an electric car. The MiEV doesn’t feel different on the road. If anything, the electric motor acceleration is surprisingly quick and smooth. What’s different is the range. Give the MiEV a full charge and you’re good for about 62 miles. While that’s more than enough to get me to and from work every day (a 28 mile round trip), I don’t like the idea that I can’t drive across town if I need to run some unplanned errand. While there are some quick charging stations where I live in Phoenix, first you have to find one and then you have to spend at least 30 minutes juicing up the batteries. At that point you’ll have about an 80% charge.
I only got to spend two days with the MiEV, but I did find its charging a little confusing. I plugged the car in overnight and for some reason it didn’t show a full charge. When I left for work, the meter showed 51 miles of range. After driving to work (14 miles one way) it had only dropped to 48 miles. Either my math is off or the meter is a little confused.
Perhaps the extra range came because I was using the Eco mode. You can definitely tell the difference. You don’t get that zippy electric motor acceleration, although it’s not bad. The meter on the dash shows that you’re not draining the battery as much. That could ease my electric paranoia a bit.
Inside, the MiEV is definitely your basic economy car. While my test car’s MSRP was $34,765, very little of that money was spent on the interior. It was very spartan. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but there wasn’t much effort to impress.
That $34,765 price tag does bring it in at less than the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt. It’s probably equal to the Leaf (although the Leaf got about 100 miles on a charge), but not as nice as the Volt. Mitsubishi’s web site says you can knock the price down to $21,625 after tax savings for the base model. It also comes with an 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty for those who are worried about the energy storage. While that sounds nice, it’s half the life of your standard gasoline motor.
I will say that I liked the styling over the Leaf. The MiEV is definitely small, but its shape is distinctive. No one is going to confuse you for any other car on the road. As for its size, my wife called it a lawnmower with four doors which simply means it’s not very large.
I will give Mitsubishi credit for trying to have a little fun. They have a series of graphic wraps you can buy to give the car some individual flair. I guess they figure the people who buy the MiEV are going to be a little different, so they might as well show it.
The GEM car was designed for a limited audience that only did limited driving. The MiEV is bigger, faster and has a lot more range, but it definitely has its limits as well.