Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What got me started?

In the summer of 2007, while strolling the main street through Los Gatos, CA, I came across the Green Vehicles car store.  Inside they had three of their prototype vehicles.  One three-wheeler was highway capable, while the other two were neighborhood electric cars.  They were taking deposits on the cars to help bring them to production.  I became enamored with a yellow two-seater, but in my usual fashion, I opted to think about it and do some research before laying out $1,000 in hopes that the car would someday be delivered.  In the coming months I learned that the car was imported from China and was limited to speeds of 25 MPH, and could not travel on roads with a speed limit of 40 MPH or higher.  My favorite wine store could only be accessed by a road with a 40 MPH speed limit, so I decided against getting any Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). 

Green Vehicles Neighborhood Electric Car

The Flybo Neighborhood Electric Vehicle

Next, I started digging into what electric cars were being developed and which were in the works for the near future.  Those that would be imminently available were too unconventional to really work for me, so I had to set my sights further down the road.  (One sat two people in tandem and made a Smart ForTwo look big, while the other looked like its airplane wings had yet to develop.)  Then, three cars started to promise a delivery timeline.  The first one, the Mistubishi i-MiEV, was targeted first for Japan, and then the United Kingdom, with the rest of Europe following shortly thereafter.  Then, the Nissan Leaf EV and the Chevy Volt came to market in 2011.  The Leaf met with some success, but the Volt took much longer to catch on.  At this same time, Mitsibishi announced plans to adapt the i-MiEV for the U.S. Market, making it wider and giving it bigger bumpers.

After months of waiting, Mitsubishi created a waiting list for U.S. deliveries of the i-MiEV, asking for a $300 deposit to secure your car and select its color and trim options.  I hesitated at first, but after a month I put my name on the list and my money on the table to secure one.  Of the four colors offered, I chose the only real color, "raspberry".  (Somehow, white black, and silver do not seem like actual colors.)  I picked the upgraded trim level in order to get the leather-wrapped steering wheel (a must for me) and a few other dandy items.  Then came the two road tests.  First, Mitsubishi sent a European-spec i-MiEV on test-drive tour through the states so that people could get a small taste of it.  Drivers were not allowed onto the highway, but the city driving was promising and almost impressive.  The second test involved a U.S.-spec pre-production model, which drove amazingly like the first.  Again, drivers were not allowed access to the highway, but my representative allowed me a brief “wrong turn” onto highway 87 and back off at the next exit.  While not mind-numbing with its speed, it performed like many of the small cars from the early 1980’s. 
One of the pre-production Mitsubishi I-MiEV cars made available to test

Finally, can time to track delivery of my car.  According to the Mitsubishi web site, my car would arrive in early January.  But, in mid-December, 2011, I received a phone call asking me to come to the dealership to pick up my car.  On December 18th, I took delivery of the first retail-sale Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Santa Clara County.  (I’m guessing that the real first person backed away when they saw how purple the car turned out to be.)  When I returned to drop off some paperwork a few days later, I met the second retail delivery customer, which is where this started to get a little peculiar.  We are both named Mark, both in our late-40’s, and both working in the computer software development field.  (Even more disturbing was later discovering a second i-MiEV showing up at work driven by another Mark.)  Later I would meet owners not named Mark who were not involved with software who drive the same car (much to my relief).  So, that’s basically how I got started.
My i-MiEV at the Mitsubishi dealer

No comments:

Post a Comment