The iMiEV is back!

by Ben N on December 30, 2015


I got my car back yesterday!

The dealer had my car for 20 days! I was told that much of that was waiting for parts, and then “well it’s the holidays…”.

I originally took the car to the dealer to get some open recalls taken care of: vacuum pump, impact sensors, and underbody corrosion prevention.

I also had them make an extra copy of the key and check on the blower fan noise. The original Three-Year Warranty runs out next month, so I wanted to get the recalls taken care of before then. That way, if they found anything else wrong, it would be free to fix.

It turned out that the fan noise was indeed rodent damage. There was dog food in there. Rodents love when they can find dog food. They will pack it away anywhere they can for future eating, including inside car HVAC. The scary part of this is that the HVAC on this car leads right to the battery!

Because it was mice, it was also not covered under warranty. At least now, I can hear myself think while the blower is on high.

The dealer is 70 miles away – which can’t be done even by fair-weather EPA numbers, let alone in a Wisconsin winter. When I took the car down there, the charge stop I was going to use was out of order. On this trip, I checked at a different charging station on the way down to make sure it was working.

This was at the Elkhorn, WI campus of the Gateway Technical College, and the school was closed for winter break. We had a big snow-storm the other day, and as I arrived in the parking lot, I could see two trucks and six men leaving – I had JUST MISSED the snow-removal crew. The entire parking lot looked great – perfectly clear. And not a car anywhere, as the school was closed.

So what did the plow crew do with the snow? Pushed it up around the charger!


Fortunately, at least the charger was still working. For a moment, I worried that it had gotten damaged by the plow. (The bracket that the cord is hung up on was broken off, leaving the cord on the ground.) I pulled out my shovel and dug until I could get the charging cable out of the ice, and confirm that I would be able to use the charger.

After that, it was time to continue my ride to the dealership. Once there, I had to pay dealer prices ($$$$$) for my extra key and dog food removal. They DID have the car at full charge. (I had reminded them SEVERAL times while on the phone…) The charger was indoors, which meant that my car was in a semi-warm shop, instead of out in the snow.

When I went to leave, I heard an immediate “wump, wump, wump” from the front-right tire.

Oh no, I am NOT going to drive home only to have to come back and leave my car for ANOTHER three weeks! I checked the tire from where the sound was coming. The tire didn’t look low on air and I didn’t see anything stuck in the treads. I turned around and pulled back into the service bay at the dealership.

IMG_7124The tech who actually deals with the customers was on the phone, and looked puzzled to see me back again. Once off the phone, he hollered for Juan, the mechanic who actually worked on my car. Juan came out, and we had a look at the car and a brief discussion. He said that he had ALSO heard the same noise, but decided that it was surface rust on the brake rotor. I thought it may have been that as well, although I had never heard brake rust make that LOUD and DISTINCT of a noise before. Also, brake surface rust seems to usually be symmetrical, you hear and feel it on both sides, not just one.

I got back on the road, at least having registered my complaint in case it was more than just brake rust.

The roads were still snowy. Part of my trip had to be on the interstate, due to the location of the charging station I was going to use. By the time I arrived, my Range Remaining was listed at 16 miles. I had at least another 35 to 40 miles to go. I backed in near the charger, illegally parallel-parked was the only way the cord could reach my car. Not that I was worried, it was an otherwise empty parking lot.


In better weather, on my original trip getting the car down to the dealer, I needed about an hour of charging. On this trip, with just a slightly different route, but colder temperatures and worse road conditions, I would instead need about 2 hours of charging. Too bad there wasn’t a movie theater nearby! In fact, there’s NOTHING in walking distance of this charging station. Since the school was closed for winter break, I couldn’t even go inside to warm up. Knowing this ahead of time, I stopped at a gas station, used the bathroom, and grabbed a slice of pizza.

I pulled out the electric car blanket, which I had purchased on the trip getting my car to the dealer, plugged it in, and set the car to the accessory position to turn on the 12V plug. I also discovered that the best way to use an electric blanket is to zip it INSIDE my jacket. The blanket did nothing for my toes. I remembered that I had some chemical hand-warmers in the glove box. I opened them up and shoved them down my boots.

They work as foot-warmers too.

After that, it was a pretty boring 2 hrs of charging. One thing that DID dawn on me while I was there is that the Chargepoint station had both Level 1 AND Level 2 Charging on the same post. Some of the original chargers in my area had that design. It’s great, because for example, you can charge an electric bicycle or electric motorcycle which would NOT have J1772 on it. In this case, I realized that I could have brought with me a small 1500 watt heater, and simply plugged it in to the 120V AC level 1 outlet on the ChargePoint station! (The trick to using both ports at the same time is that you DO need two different Chargepoint cards, which I do.)

An interesting long-term modification for this car would be to install a high-power coolant heater with a 120V AC cord. At home, a preheat could be accomplished by plugging the cord in to the wall – regardless of whether or not the car is plugged in to charge. At a Chargepoint station, using BOTH the level 1 AND 2 connections, a person could get another 1500 watts of energy in to the car (as heat!) on top of the 3,000 watts of battery charging.
That’s a 50% increase in energy for winter use! No, it wouldn’t make the car charge any faster, but it would make the driver a lot more comfortable, and prevent additional time needed to “pre-heat” the cabin through the J1772.

When I was back above “half-a tank”, my range remaining then indicated 37 miles. I drove the rest of the way home. It was then 7 PM on a weeknight, and traffic was very light. I was able to drive very conservatively. (Needless to say, I didn’t have the heat on at ANY point during the trip.)
I arrived home with 4 miles on the RR meter.

I’m just glad to have the electric car finally back, crummy heater and all.

My “loaner” vehicle was a brand-new 2016 Subaru Forester. It’s fancy, big, and high-end. And I was really starting to hate it. For the life of me, I was never ONCE able to simply pull away from a dead stop smoothly. The engine would have to rev to get the power through the torque converter, and then the vehicle would lurch forward. Is that just how brand-new torque converters are? Do they need a few thousand miles to burn in before they get decent? That car did have some nice features, like a “smart” cruise control. (Actually, a very clever feature.)

All I really want is a car that can pull away smoothly from a stop, do it reliably, and get me the places I want to go. Is that too much to ask?
Nope, it’s not. The Mitsubishi iMiEV does this. (And the loaner didn’t!)

Stay charged up!

PS: Using the gas loaner sparingly, even with the cost of gas being so low right now, even averaging 30 MPG, I STILL spent more on gas than I did for my entire monthly electric bill.


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