Squirrel – the Mitsi Miev Minicab

Why Squirrel? Well it is small, red, quiet,cute and peoples heads turn like the dogs in the film “Up!” when they see a squirrel. It has already caused one nose to tail between two vehicles when the first vehicle stopped to look at it, and the second didn’t!

Bad news. The OBDII dongle I ordered does not work well with the Miev and Canion software. It works perfectly on my Honda Odyssey, but loses connection randomly and repeatedly on the Miev. A known common fault, so I have given up on that for the moment.

Good news, the Squirrel just gets better and better! We have done 1722 kms since we picked it up, and haven’t bought any petrol for the Honda in over a month. The electricity bill is currently below average (as you would expect in the summer), but it seems to be costing us about NZ$1 per day approximately. We have done a couple of long trips,140kms or so, and have charged at fast chargers a couple of times on each trip. Not cheap, sometimes as much as NZ$8 to charge from 40% to 100% (well 95% really), but cheaper than petrol.

I have been asked for a review of the vehicle, thanks Emanuele- here it is, enjoy.

If you need facts and figures and a sales pitch, open this website in Google Chrome, and use Google translate to translate it into English or your chosen language.

First off, comfort. I removed the cargo barrier behind the seats allowing the full range of movement for the drivers seat, moving backwards an extra 3cm and leaning back further than is required for safe driving. The result is a seating position for my self (a long limbed 183cm tall, 100kg weight) that is upright, comfortable and great for distances. Not the best padded seats, but they keep me located in the vehicle very well. My 153cm wife is equally comfortable, her legs reach the floor and pedals easily, and she also loves driving the car. The cab is narrow (as is the vehicle), but we are both broad shouldered and are quite comfortable sitting next to each other. If I ride as a passenger it is less comfortable, but adequate for reasonable journeys. All controls are easily reached. There is air con and a heater, which both drastically affect the range, but the heated seats have less effect on the range, and are more effective on cold days. Ours is a 2 seater model, so no rear seats to review!

Control – the steering is electrically assisted, and is light, responsive and a delight to drive with. The turning circle is excellent, as you would expect with a rear wheel drive vehicle 3.4 metres long. The brakes are firm and effective, but the regen braking tends to reduce the need to use the brakes. The initial movement of the brake pedal seems to activate the full regeneration mode, meaning that a lot of the time even using the brake pedal does not actually cause brake pads to touch the disks. Another saving. The “gear lever” has 3 settings, Drive, Eco (restricts throttle to lower power settings unless floored) and Brake (full regenerative braking – makes going downhill very slow!).

Windows, seats, mirrors are all fully manual, heater and air conditioning controls are at least 20 years old in design, but there is central locking. There are two cup holders, a few little pockets and cubby holes and a glove box. Interior light can be on, off or controlled by the doors. The engine is switched on and off with a key in the steering column, front wipers, rear wipers and washers are controlled by a stalk, and lights and indicators are on the other stalk. Hand brake is a lever between the seats.

Under the seats are the fusebox, windscreen washer reservoir and coolant header tank. Brake fluid is checked/topped up through a hatch in the top of the dash. The 12v battery is under a panel at the rear of the vehicle (inside the car), the space saver spare tyre is bolted to the wall of the van above where the whell arch would be if it had any. Tyre pressures are 35psi front, 65psi rear, 60psi for the spare! Wheel changing tools are under the “false” floor on the drivers side.

The dashboard is simple. The main meter is the “economy” meter, which shows how much power you are using or recovering, and it goes from charging, through eco into a zone which really sucks the power out of the battery. In the middle of this dial is the digital speedometer, which takes a bit of getting used to – best not to watch it too much! The fuel gauge shows the state of charge of the battery, with 16 bars being fully charged, and no bars too low to power the car. At two bars the meter starts flashing to tell you to charge it up. You can toggle through a bunch of meters and information panels on the final gauge. I usually keep it on the remaining range for the car, but it can show the odometer (total kms traveled), two different trip gauges, a setting to change the brightness of the display, and one which I don’t understand yet, but is something to do with maintenance.

The remaining range is interesting, as it measures at the state of charge of the battery and looks at how you have been driving recently, at whether you have the air conditioning or the heater on, and uses an algorithm to work out how far you will go if you don’t change one of these 3 factors. Some people call it the guessometer, or GOM as it can show what appear to be random results, but I like it and understand it, so when the range goes back up after a few kms of careful driving, I am quite pleased with myself. Use it with the fuel gauge to keep an eye on how you are doing and whether you will get home.

Outside dimensions and inside dimensions can be seen in this website, but if really want to, you can sleep in the back. With the seat forward, the load bed is flat, 190cm long and between 125cm and 135cm wide, a small double bed size. A nice futon mattress would make a nice camper van out of it!

Performance – well it is not going to make your heart beat too much faster. It will however apparently do 71 mph (120kph?). I once got it to 105kph when I was not paying attention, but the speed limit here is 100kph, so I am unlikely to try for the maximum speed. The 0-100kph figure is not as bad as you would think it would be, not a drag racer, but it will easily keep up with traffic away from the lights and out of junctions. It can run out of steam a bit accelerating up long steep hills. If you push it to match other traffic you can watch the remaining range drop by three times the number of kilometers you have done! A strong headwind will also drain a lot of battery power, but a tailwind can extend the range by 10km – this thing is a brick, especially from the back.

Noise – not as quiet as you would think either. A steady whine from the motor and reduction drive, a high pitched whistle from the controller. The controller and charger are water cooled, so occasionally you will hear a pump move coolant from the controller to the radiator at the front, especially during charging. Road noise is high, as there is no insulation and the wheel arches are in the cab. A futon in the back may reduce some of these noises! The vacuum pump to power the brakes can occasionally be heard, especially when starting after being turned off for a while.

Handling is excellent, if you understand that the tyres are 145R12, so are narrow and small diameter, and that the vehicle weighs about 1000kg unladen, so about 1200 kg to 1500kg with drivers, passengers and maybe some cargo. The weight is all down low, and all between the front and rear wheels. So there is no wheel spin or skipping at the rear as there is with other lightweight vans, but there is adequate weight at the front to get good turn in. Under steer would be a problem if you pushed it hard, and tyre wear would be high too. Today we drove it over a local road which is just 10kms of bends over the top of a very large hill, and it felt every bit as comfortable as our Honda Odyssey or my Mini Clubman! Surefooted, easy to drive, small so plenty of room on the road, and very responsive under power, braking and around the corners.

Charging takes between 3 and 8 hours at 240 volts using an 8amp EVSE. A 16 amp EVSE would reduce that. On the road a fast charge can take between 15 and 40 minutes depending on the starting charge and whether you charge to 80% or 100% (really only 95%)

Thinking of buying one – take it for a good test drive, think carefully about what you want this vehicle for. It’s not for everybody, but if it is the vehicle you need, and the price is right – go for it. Just make sure you are happy with the  battery choice – mine is a 16kWh, giving me an easy range of 80kms on the open road, but the 10.5kWh battery will have a much shorter range BUT has a far superior chemistry (Lithium Titanium) and the batteries will outlast the rest of the car and can be recycled into a home battery storage unit in 15 years time!

Dave Glover 25/11/2018



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