Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Second Coming of the EV : Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev

Mitsubishi iMiev left, and Nissan Leaf right

You may be interested in this article if...
- You are ready to change your driving experience for the sake of the environment
- You want to drive something different and very avant guard
- You F*%king HATE how oil companies rob you
- You want everyone to see what a nice guy you are

The second coming of the electric car has long been awaited in the production market after the lamented loss of the famous EV1 in 2002, and it seems that time is finally upon us. Concepts of EVs and notions of  the EV as the vehicle of the future are both common within all car companies and each of them claims to care about the environment thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much |-----------------------------|. But at the end of the day it was Nissan and Mitsubishi that took the financial risk which brought us two very unique vehicles that prove there are some companies that are prepared to take action toward a sustainable future. There are companies that are on the brink of releasing EVs for purchase in the North American market, like Honda and its RAV4 EV, and Ford with its Focus EV which deserve some attention too, but Nissan and Mitsu were the first to actually do it and that deserves special praise.

The two pioneering cars we are talking about are the 2011 Nissan Leaf, and the 2012 Mitsubishi iMiev (pronounced eye-meev).  These aren't dream cars that only movie stars can own, they are on sale, you can buy them right now! Both are 100% electric and are designed for real people, and are affordable to most families because of a very handsome government subsidy. In addition both are real car sized and are actually spacious inside with tons of standard features. They drive like normal cars and look like normal cars. But despite all their similarities and their similar market demographics they are different cars and therefore neither one is best for EVERYBODY. It's time to sort through the these green machines and find out which car was designed for which driver in today's Side-by-Side review.

Efficiency is the reason people are so interested in EV technology. It's great driving a car that can go all over the place without using a drop of gasoline. Still, many point out (to most everyone's disappointment) that these cars aren't really zero emission vehicles because the electricity must be generated for their use by means which often aren't so green. And yet what few individuals know is that even if the electricity for these vehicles was netted from burning coal they would still have lower emissions than normal cars because electric motors are far more efficient than gasoline or diesel engines. And even if they weren't as efficient as they are, they would still kick gas vehicle butt because gasoline must be refined from oil and then transported (and it weighs much more than electricity in power lines) from those refineries to gas stations.

Both the Leaf and the iMiev have an expected range of approximately 160km on a full charge according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But the iMiev is actually the more efficient of the two because it has a smaller 16 kWh battery pack compared to the Leaf's 24 kWh pack, and despite the 8 kWh difference the iMiev travels the same distance. As a result, the iMiev is 50% more efficient than the Leaf and also the most efficient passenger vehicle in the US and Canada. To put efficiency into perspective lets compare both EVs to the energy efficiency of a 2012 Hyundai Accent...

Hyundai Accent - 60.5kWh/100km
Nissan Leaf - 15kWh/100km
Mitsubishi iMiev - 10kWh/100km

At the end of the year, this translates to an average fuel cost of just under $200 CAD for the iMiev and $288 CAD for the Leaf at an electricity cost of 6 cents per kWh. Relative to the Accent's $1535 CAD annual fuel cost, you would be saving $6500 CAD over a 5 year period if you drove the iMiev. 

If you are sincerely driven to do the most for the environment and stick it to the oil companies by saving as much money as possible on fuel costs, the iMiev is the car for you.


In order to actually make a difference in the way we drive, both EVs have been priced to sell, and can be subsidized by the government to make them compete with other non-electrics with equal appeal. The Nissan Leaf can be bought for $38395 CAD and qualifies for the full government subsidy of $8500 CAD in Ontario bringing the price down to $29895 CAD, which isn't so bad. In addition to this, the Leaf is the more likely of the two to retain its value over the years ahead, and even at the end of its life is 99% recyclable which means it will always have value as reusable material. On the other hand, the iMiev costs only $32998 CAD in base trim and qualifies for a subsidy of $8230 CAD making it the more affordable car off the lot at only $24768 CAD.

Warranty wise both cars provide exquisite 8 year 160 000 km coverage for their batter packs. Only Nissan goes further to offer buyers the option of leasing the pack with the intent of selling buyers a new one as technology improves.

If you're financially inclined to choose the cheapest EV you can find, you can't go wrong with the iMiev, which costs $5127 CAD less than the Leaf!


When it comes to performance, an electric car can't really compete with a modern gasoline engine or even a diesel engine. But there is one thing that an electric car excels at and will always excel at over gasoline cars, and that is the massive available torque that comes standard on every model. Although it's hard to compete with the power of an explosion, an electric car is by no means slow, and has almost 50% more torque that an average 4 cylinder in line. Don't imagine the cheap electric ride-in child's backyard adventure jeeps you buy at Toys-R-Us, instead picture a blender at top speed liquefying its contents. All that power is available from 0 rpm, so an EV accelerates with intense thrust that surprises most drivers. You won't be reaching for impressive top speeds, but no one buys an EV for the top speed (Unless you buy a Tesla). However, it will feel like a fast car in the city. You will enjoy how quickly the car accelerates to 60 km/h which is all that matters performance wise on roads limited to that speed. 

The iMiev comes with a 66hp motor and 144 lb ft of torque that is channelled through a continuously variable automatic transmission that makes 0-80km/h in 10.6 seconds and has a top speed of 130 km/h. There are 3 drive modes available which offer unique benefits. Drive Mode uses all 66hp and standard regenerative braking, Eco Mode reduces the power to 24hp and uses stronger regenerative braking, and Brake Mode offers an odd combination of full power and the strongest regenerative braking settings. Drive mode is great for city driving, Eco mode makes the iMiev sluggish in acceleration but is fantastic for highway cruising, and lastly brake mode helps drivers capitalize on regenerative braking and coasting opportunities like driving down a long or steep hill. In addition to all this, the iMiev has a feature that would surprise most people: rear wheel drive. The motor in the iMiev is located at the rear of the car behind the batter pack and turns the rear wheels making the iMiev an RR. However, that RWD isn't really coming in hardy because of the thin 175/50R 15" wheels that tend to feel slippery in tight corners. 

Even more impressive is the 107hp motor 206 lb ft of torque available in the Leaf, which boasts a 0-100km/h time under 10 seconds and a top speed of 140km/h! The Leaf also uses a transmission and drive mode configuration similar to the iMiev, but the exact opposite drive layout. The motor is in the front of the car and drives the front wheels making the Leaf and FF. In addition to this, the leaf's longer, wider and shorter design coupled with its P205/55R 16" wheels gives the leaf superior handling compared to the iMiev. 

If performance is a priority in your EV than the Nissan Leaf is the right choice for you.


One of the primary concerns surrounding EV technology is the practicality of driving one. The limited driving range and lack of charging infrastructure make road trips and trips between cities impossible. So for those that absolutely NEED to travel long distances regularly an EV isn't an option. But for 70% of North Americans whose commutes and errands are within the 160km daily range, EVs are great and will only get better. 

In addition to the issue of range, many see EVs as small and impractical bare bones cars that are unaccommodating. Although these EVs are light to improve efficiency they have proven to be surprisingly usable with plenty of interior space for both people and cargo. 

The leaf is marketed as the first full electric family vehicle for good reason, it's spacious and comfortable with front and rear heated seats, standard seating for 5, and 14.5/24 cu. ft. of cargo space with rear seats up/folded. XM Traffic reports can also be viewed on the large touch screen display in the centre console, which when coupled with the cruise control make commuting easier, faster and more efficient. Both the iMiev and Leaf also come equipped with a metre that displays remaining charge in distance and can pin point existing charging stations en route for longer trips. 

The iMiev pales in comparison to the Leaf by only seating four, having only a driver's heated seat and lacking anything resembling a traffic report feature in its telematics system. However, with the seats folded the iMiev offers an impressive 50.4 cu. ft. of cargo that capitalizes on the vehicles tall design. So it doesn't lose all around to the Leaf. Still, its hatch opening is smaller than the Leaf's so getting larger cargo inside may be a pain in the butt.

Both EVs charge their lithium battery packs in the same 3 ways:
Level 1 charging - Using the standard 120V charging cable that comes with the vehicle to bring the battery to a full charge in 22 hours.
Level 2 charging - Using an optional and suggested 240V charging station that fully charges the battery in just 7 hours.
DC quick charging - Using a commercial charging station to give the battery an 80% charge from dead in about 30 minutes.

Depending on where your priorities lie, you may feel that either the iMiev with its superior cargo capacity, or the Leaf with more human storage space and advanced telematic traffic report is more practical. But overall, the Leaf is the big winner when it comes to practicality. 

Still, it's important to note that neither of these cars comes with a spare tire and only has a tire repair kit to compensate. This is something to consider seriously, especially if you are a new driver.


Creature comforts are pretty important to consumers on modern vehicles, and some may avoid EVs because they believe that manufacturers won't bother with any of them because they could use a chunk of electricity and reduce the range. While this thinking is justified, both the iMiev and the Leaf come equipped with many creature comforts and niceties that are as efficient as the cars they were built for. Still, they aren't perfect and will reduce the vehicle's range, so it's up to the driver to decide when to use what.

When it comes to interior room, both cars are spacious enough for their max seating capacity. However the interior material quality of the iMiev leaves much to be desired and even with the premium interior package isn't impressive. On the other hand the Leaf has an interior that feels worthy of its higher cost. Indeed, even though the iMiev boasts a 5db noise level and little to no vibration, the Leaf out does this by reducing more exterior noise experienced at higher speeds.

Both cars have impressive climate control systems and promise to be handy for buyers in colder areas. The iMiev has a heated driver's seat, heated mirrors, and remote climate controls that allow the driver to pre heat or cool his car before getting in. But the Leaf still trumps the iMiev here by offering heated seating for all passengers, a heated steering wheel and similar remote climate controls.

In terms of telematics, infotainment and other electronic stuff, both cars are well equiped again. Both support hands free blue tooth 2.0, and aux ports for mp3 players. And of course both come with push button start, keyless entry, and power locks and windows. But the Leaf pulls out ahead again by offering CARWINGS - which is like onStar - free for 3 years and a free trial subscription to XM traffic report which is really handy to display on its standard 7" touch screen. Also, the Leaf has a 6 speaker sound system that shames the iMiev's 100 watt 4 speaker system. However, if you're willing to upgrade to the premium package the iMiev will sport a 360 watt 8 speaker system, and touch screen nav display, which isn't half bad at all.

Overall, even if you were to consider the iMiev's premium package, the Leaf is more comfortable and convenient to drive. If you like your EV comfy then the Leaf is for you. Just be sure to buy a mat for the dash if you notice the white interior is reflected back from the wind shield on sunny days.


Our government safety standards keep new production vehicles pretty safe as they are, but if you're buying these cars to move your family around in, looking a little further can't hurt at all. Both cars come standard with front, side, and curtain air bags, ABS, Brake assist, Traction/Stability control, and tire pressure monitors, though  the Leaf is the only one to receive a 5 star crash test rating and all around good safety ratings from the IIHS. This is because of the Leaf's excellent body design which has a protective front crumple zone unlike the smaller crumple zones in the iMiev's RISE body design. Despite not having crash test data yet in North America, the iMiev didn't score very highly while on sale in the UK and received only an average safety rating. In addition to all this the iMiev is tall and light for its size and has very thin tires making it more unstable and accident prone than the Leaf.

Here are some crash test videos of both EVs:
iMiev -
Leaf -

If you simply can't compromise safety for efficiency then the Leaf is your only option in the current EV market, and you might actually be better off waiting for an electric SUV or cross over like the Honda RAV4 EV.


Even though both cars perform adequately in all areas, are super green, and do their best to please everyone, both are best suited to specific drivers.

The Mitsubishi iMiev is an ultra affordable EV with extreme efficiency and loads of cargo space with rear wheel drive and fog lights standard for those that can't live without them. This car is most suited to the hardcore environmentalist sans children, that is willing to go all in on his EV purchase and get the greenest car in North America.

The Leaf is a slightly more expensive EV with great performance, practicality, comforts, a five star safety rating, and the option to swap out the battery when a better one inevitably comes along. This car is for the established family man that is looking for a long term vehicle with good resale value and also wants to take a positive step towards a brighter sustainable future for his children without compromising their safety along the way.

Whichever EV you decide on, you won't be sorry you invested in new technologies and a sustainable future. Even if you can't hear us, everyone living on earth will thank you for it. 

Below are some links to more sites with info on EVs
Green Car Reports:
LEAF news, blog, and forum:

No comments:

Post a Comment