Car Reviews

Hey Chicagoans, Save Over $20,000 on the Mitsubishi i

April 22, 2012   ·   0 Comments

 

  While other electric vehicles may not be financially prudent cars to drive, the much-less-expensive i can be a pretty smart choice–especially for Chicagoans. Click to see more pictures of the 2012 Mitsubishi i.

In the vast city of Chicago, just one Mitsubishi dealership is available to service a population of 2.7 million. We suggest that that dealership, Olympic Mitsubishi at 2662 N. Cicero, stock up on the 2012 Mitsubishi i. After all, that little electric vehicle is a compelling choice for the city’s yuppies and hipsters.

At first glance, the i fails to impress. Just 145 inches long, it is one of the smallest vehicles you can buy–just slightly longer than a Fiat 500. The acceleration on this plug-in electric vehicle (EV) is far from robust, while the cabin space is somewhat cramped up front and tight for adult passengers in the rear. A bigger issue is the car’s range; the EPA says you can drive, on average, 62 miles on a fully charged battery before the car dies out. Then there’s the sticker price: $ 29,125 retail for the base model, or about double what you’d expect to pay for a similar vehicle that was powered by gasoline.

That said, in certain parts of Chicago–including such trendy North Side enclaves as Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville, and River North–the car makes a whole lot of sense. Here’s why:

Government Incentives

The federal government offers a tax credit of up to $ 7,500 for those who purchase a plug-in vehicle. To claim the full amount of that credit, your federal income tax for the year has to be at least $ 7,500. (If your income tax was, say, $ 6,000, you could only claim a $ 6,000 federal credit for your new EV.) A single tax filer earning roughly $ 60,000 likely would have to pay at least $ 7,500 in federal income tax, and a family of four making around $ 90,000 and above would likely be responsible for at least $ 7,500 in tax. Many residents of the abovementioned neighborhoods earn hefty incomes, meaning they’d qualify for the full $ 7,500 plug-in tax credit.

More notably, Illinois–of the 48 continental states–offers the best incentive for purchasing a plug-in vehicle: a cash rebate of up to $ 4,000. Illinois residents who can prove they bought a qualifying EV (and the i qualifies, as does the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Ford Focus Electric, among others) at an Illinois dealership will receive a rebate check from the state. For the Mitsubishi i, the rebate is 10 percent of the base MSRP, meaning $ 2,912.

Thus, high-income Chicagoans who buy a $ 29,125 i can get $ 10,415 back from the federal and state governments. In effect, that brings the car’s price down to $ 18,710 (excluding destination fee, tax, and finance charges). But with the i, the savings just keep on coming…

Three Cents a Mile

The Honda Fit, another pint-sized subcompact, gets 28 mpg in the city, according to the EPA. With gas currently at about $ 4.45 in the trendy neighborhoods of Chicago (much higher than most of the country), and with residents of those areas driving almost exclusively in the city or on slow-moving highways, 28 mpg is about the best mileage they could hope to get in a Fit. At 28 mpg, Fit drivers in Chicago pay about 15.9 cents per mile for gasoline. According to Mitsubishi, it costs just 3 cents per mile to drive an i.

So if an i driver puts 8,000 miles a year on the car, he or she will pay about $ 240 for electricity–or $ 1,032 less than the Fit owner would pay for gas. Over a 10-year period (80,000 miles), that would be a savings of $ 10,320. Over 100,000 miles, it’s a savings of $ 12,900.

Thus, the Chicagoan who buys an i for $ 29,125 could get $ 10,415 back from the government and potentially save $ 12,900 on fuel. Based solely on those three numbers, it’s like buying a new car for $ 5,810!

For the record, other costs go into buying a plug-in. An at-home 240-volt charging station is highly recommended because it fully charges the battery in seven hours as opposed to 22.5 hours on a regular 120-volt household outlet. A charging station costs roughly $ 1,500, but a federal tax credit brings it down to around $ 1,000. However, because an EV doesn’t require oil changes and transmission service, you should save more than $ 1,000 in maintenance costs over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Other Reasons to Own an i in Chicago

Besides saving money, owning an i has certain advantages in urban driving. There are disadvantages, too, but they’re not so bad for urbanites.

An Earth Saver: With zero emissions and no need for gasoline, the i makes the Toyota Prius look like a gas hog. The i fits right in with the green agenda of today’s young progressives.

Acceleration: Although tepid for the first 15 feet or so, the i’s acceleration picks up nicely after that, and the i easily keeps up with traffic. At any speed above a crawl, hitting the throttle produces an instant surge, as there’s no waiting for the transmission to downshift. The i’s 0-60 mph time is around 11 seconds, and the top speed is restricted to 81 mph. However, many of Chicago’s trendies rarely leave the city, and the unceasing expressway traffic usually limits speeds to 60 mph or less.

Rear seat room: Legroom is tight for rear passengers, but the vast majority of residents in Chicago’s upscale neighborhoods are childless or have small children.

Parking: Side street parking on the North Side of Chicago is a bigger bear than Brian Urlacher. But with the i, drivers can squeeze into the less-than-full-size spaces that other drivers have to pass up.

Range: With a range of 62 miles (less when using the heat or AC), a Chicagoan could commute to the suburbs and back and not run out of juice. Few Chicago urbanites drive long distances because, once out of the suburbs, the landscape is rural until you reach St. Louis, Milwaukee, or Detroit–cities that many Chicagoans have no desire to visit. For the rare long road trip, they could always rent a car.

Charging Stations: EV drivers in Chicago don’t necessarily have to worry about staying close to home. ChargePoint Network (http://www.chargepoint.net/find-stations.php) provides maps of all the public charging stations in the U.S., including more than 100 current or future stations in Chicago. The number of such stations is expected to mushroom in upcoming years.

A bigger concern for urbanites is charging at home. First, you need a garage spot. If you live in a condo or apartment building, with a shared garage, you have to get approval to install a charging station–and somehow pay for the electricity you’re using. Many management companies and condo associations are not yet on board with this new technology.

Putting the i in Other Cities

While the i seems to best suit the aforementioned Chicagoans, it makes sense in other cities and states as well. Mitsubishi began its rollout of the vehicle in January 2012 in California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. The first three of those states are known for their progressive leanings, and all four have large urban populations.

Hawaii outdoes Illinois with a rebate of up to $ 4,500 for EV purchases, and California offers a rebate of up to $ 2,500 (though just $ 1,500 if the car’s range is less than 75 miles). Tennessee offers a $ 2,500 rebate, but only for the first 1,000 qualified vehicles sold in the state.

Other states offer state tax credits, but they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be. West Virginia’s $ 7,500 tax credit is the highest, but all it does is wipe out the state tax money you owe at tax time–that is, above and beyond what was withheld from your paycheck. West Virginia does allow taxpayers to do this for 10 years or until they reach $ 7,500, but most taxpayers will never come close to that figure.
 
Of course, the $ 7,500 federal tax credit can be used in every state, and the long-term fuel savings would be thousands of dollars no matter where you live. While the Volt ($ 39,125), Leaf ($ 35,200), and Focus Electric ($ 39,995) may never be financially prudent cars to drive, the much-less-expensive i can be a pretty smart choice–especially for Chicago’s North Siders.

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