By on October 21, 2010

Yes, we know the drill: range will vary with an EV, even more so than with a gas car. Nissan has now set out a number of scenarios to project the range of its Leaf EV. It confirms what we’ve been saying all along: this is not the car to buy if you like driving fast. There’s little doubt that a Baruthian blast could deplete one in some 30 miles or less. On the other hand, if you like driving at a steady 38 mph…

These scenarios (below) are supplied by Nissan, which also tells us that the battery in the Leaf will lose 20 to 30% of its capacity and range after ten years, depending on its usage and charging patterns. Regularly running the battery down more deeply, and charging it at higher speeds (quick-charge) will deteriorate the battery at a higher rate.

The EPA LA4 Test cycle is the obsolete pre-2008 City Cycle, upon which the Leaf’s nominal 100 mile range is based on, has been replaced with a more difficult LA6 City Cycle. Nissan should fess up, and show the results of the current city cycle.

And an average speed of 55 mph for the highway scenario is also low: the EPA’s Highway Cycle has a 60 mph average. And we all know how many of us drive at sixty. EV range melts disproportionately at higher speeds than a conventional car, because an IC engine runs at relatively higher efficiency at higher speeds (not absolute economy), whereas an electric motor’s efficiency is more constant, and shines at the city speeds, which are the IC’s nemesis.

It will be interesting to see the Nissan’s range at seventy and eighty. Let’s not forget, the Volt was primarily designed for the more typical American driving conditions, for a reason.

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45 Comments on “Nissan Leaf Range Scenarios – Anxiety Provoking Or Not?...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    at 72° I need AC when the sun is shining or it is humid. the EPA tests are BS.

    The last 3 tests are realistic (AC, heating and highway) for a commuter car (city driving with AC/heating and speeds up to 55 mph). so we look at a real life 62-70 miles.
    I wish EPA would display those numbers. Also for the Volt.
     
    now my question is, what will the range be after some years of driving? My phone loses battery capacity noticeably during my 2 year contract. but it always is (relatively) warm in my pocket or inside. what about being outside in winter/summer fro many years?

    Edit: at least Nissan is honest enough to post the raw numbers. unlike GM with the 230 mpg

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Nissan projects that after ten years, battery capacity will be between 70 and 80%, depending on usage and charging patterns. So range will deteriorate by some 20-30%.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      GM was just as honest with their 230 mpg as Nissan is here.

      That 230 mpge is a good, valid number for electric-only equivalent usage.

      The difference is that GM is letting a lot more people test the car to show real world numbers with combined gas.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      If you keep a 20 mile margin of detour and unexpected, losing 25% of the original range to old age is the difference between 55 useable miles and 36.  That’s huge.
       
      I realize that normal notions of what a comfortable reserve is aren’t ever going to apply to this type of car but running your trip home down to zero just isn’t prudent.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      “Edit: at least Nissan is honest enough to post the raw numbers. unlike GM with the 230 mpg”
       
      Wrong.
       
      http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2009/08/68496729/1
       
      <<General Motors’ eye-popping claim of 230 city mpg for its Chevy Volt is based on an Environmental Protection Agency proposal for calculating “mpgs” for electric cars. In fact, the plug-in Volt will never use its gas engine to make electric juice if you drive 40 or fewer miles between charges from the grid. Nissan claims 367 mpg under the same formula for its coming all-electric Nissan Leaf, which has has no gas engine or tank, and a range of about 100 miles per full battery charge.>>
       
      Never ceases to amaze me how everyone can remember GM’s claim of 230 MPG, but has conveniently forgotten Nissan’s claim of 367 MPG.  Also amazes me how everyone seems to forget that GM and Nissan both based their estimates on the formula given to them by the EPA, and told to follow.  Neither car company yanked the numbers out of their butts.

  • avatar

    definitely yes.

  • avatar
    jmo

    With 2.8 cars per household and 32.8 miles per driver per day, it seems like a leaf would work for a significant portion of American families.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The number of cars per household is likely going down.  If you have 3 cars, having a Leaf may not be a bad idea.  But I would really want to know if this car would take me 40 miles over hills at 70 miles per hour at 100 degrees in TX.  Seeing how the numbers are dropping so far… I am not sure that it can.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “But I would really want to know if this car would take me 40 miles over hills at 70 miles per hour at 100 degrees in TX.”

      If you have to make that trek every day then a leaf makes sense.   If it’s only rarely then when you need to take the trip you switch cars with your wife.

      It’s like the guy with a 328i and a wife with an Odyssey.  If he needs to pick up some stuff at Home Depot or Costco he might take the Highlander.   They don’t both need an Odyssey for the 1 in 100 times when they both need 7 passenger seating at the same time.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    I want to see “real world” highway range at 75 mph, over rolling terrain.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I think these discussions are good.  Let’s remember, though, that the Leaf doesn’t have to be the “right” car for everyone … or even a majority of people.  If it works for even 1% of households in the USA, that will give it 100k annual sales for 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      + 1
       
      you don’t need to convince the entire country, only need to convince the fer 100K
      IF one focused on building a car for 100% of the population, we wouldn’t have convertibles etc. and thsoe make much less sense economically to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Bingo, wrote a similar response further down ↓ in this discussion.  For some people it makes perfect sense, and they are going to be very passionate about the Leaf.  For some it isn’t the best choice, for many others it would be a terrible solution, and some of them are going to be equally passionate as the supporters in the other direction (hey, it ain’t personal).  Bob the contractor isn’t going to haul sheetrock and tools in a Leaf, Volt or Prius.  It just ain’t happening.  Clark W. Griswold isn’t going to drive to Wally World in a Leaf either.  There will always be a market for the wagon queen family truckster, there is a growing market for electrics and econoboxes.  To each their own.  (personally no fan of econoboxes)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is excellent data, and Nissan is being much more forthcoming than GM is about the Volt.
     
    Basically, you get 100 miles, +/-38% when new, and about 25% less when aged a bit.
     
    At least the calculations for a true EV are straightforward.

  • avatar
    dlfcohn

    What the above data tells me is that the Nissan Leaf is not a viable product for anyone living in most parts of Canada and the Northern parts of the US.

    14 F. is not the average temperature in many places but it is the average daily low in a lot of places and can be the high point on any given winter day around the Great Lakes and in the associated St. Lawrence River watershed.

    Here are some average daily low points for Temperature in January for major cities around the Great Lakes region and the St. Lawrence:

    Cleveland  18 F
    Chicago  15 F
    Detroit   16
    Toronto 14 F
    Ottawa   13 F
    Montreal  14 F

    If you head out west to places like Winnipeg or Edmonton those temperatures will get even lower.

    Based on the data above: if you only get 62 miles in a traffic jammed 15 mph average commute you are going to get a lot less if it is a clear highway drive at an average of 38-40 (including stops at access and exit streets and the usual red light green light things).   I imagine that the heater is not the only problem.  Batteries don’t work so well when cold.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      yes i wonder if they tested with the car parked in a warm garage (=warm battery) and then drive at 14°F or if the battery started out at 14°F. If it is Li-ion battery the temperature degradations is not as bad as with Lead acid, but still significantly adding to the added heating electricity needed.
       
      a hybrid or plugin-hybrid makes much more sense in heating climate since the heat energy is not wasted like in summer driving.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Yeah, as much as I prefer the Leaf over the Volt, I do wish the Leaf had just a little teeny tiny engine.  Maybe even a propane tank.
       
      Hopefully the software is smart enough to somehow tell the space heater to kick in a half-hour before I leave for work, while it’s still connected to the grid.
       

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @nonce: I recall reading somewhere that the Leaf can be programmed to provide HVAC and other features before driving off, while still plugged in.  Kinda neat.
       
      I believe the Volt can do this, too.

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      Oh man. All you need is enough heat to melt and keep ice off your windshield. Drive with the windows cracked a bit to stop the windshield from fogging up … and exhale out the crack if possible. Wear your trusty toque and gloves … and when it’s really cold or you’re driving fast put on your ski mask … due to range anxiety you should have all this gear packed, stowed, and readily available whenever you venture out in the car anyway right. There, problem solved.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      When you unplug the car from the charger in the morning, the battery will be warm from the heat given off by charging. When the car is running, the battery will keep itself warm. Park for a couple hours on a really cold day without having it plugged in, and you may get a rude suprise when you try to start it.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      What the above data tells me is that the Nissan Leaf is not a viable product for anyone living in most parts of Canada and the Northern parts of the US.

      Did anyone say it was? I thought that was understood. A car like the Leaf will not work in areas with severely cold winters. Absent impractical pampering.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      BMW tested their Mini-E in New Jersey winters, knowing they were subjecting it to the worst environment possible. It effectively lost about half its range after everything was said and done.
       
      IIRC it’s heating system was pretty archaic — only resistive heating, and you couldn’t pre-program it to heat up before you started it.  Such is the lifecycle of a beta product.

  • avatar
    jmo

    <i>What the above data tells me is that the Nissan Leaf is not a viable product for anyone living in most parts of Canada and the Northern parts of the US.</i>
    I live in the city and hardly ever go more than 10 miles in any direction – mostly less than 5.  The Leaf can go 62 miles in the city when it’s 14 degrees.  Not everyone lives on top of a mountain in Alberta and drives 100 miles each way to work.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Are you sure?  If reading TTAC has taught me anything, 99.99% of America drives 200 miles each day to work, using maximum heat on the way there, maximum AC on the way home, hauls 5 passengers, while towing their boat.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      99.99% of America drives 200 miles each day to work

      And that’s each way!

      Oh, and they run the heat and the AC at the same time to dehumidify the cabin air.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      <i>I live in the city and hardly ever go more than 10 miles in any direction – mostly less than 5.  The Leaf can go 62 miles in the city when it’s 14 degrees.  Not everyone lives on top of a mountain in Alberta and drives 100 miles each way to work.</i>
       
      You are correct.  Only half of America lives in a rural setting and has to drive long distances to work.  If you live in a compact urban core and never venture out (e.g. Boston, New York, Philly, San Francisco), this is a great car.  Of course if your travels are normally less than five miles I have to question why have a car at all when public transit likely would meet those needs, and the occasional taxi or Zip Car.
       
      If you live in a large sprawling city like Houston, the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro plex, Los Angeles, or Orlando, I think you start pushing the boundaries of the leaf.
       
      If you’re looking at going outside of the city, or drive in extreme traffic and weather (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami) then the Leaf is DoA.  Just as with any car, for some, it is perfect, for others, they could do better, and for others, it would leave them for dead on the side of the road on a daily basis.  It sure ain’t for everyone, and that includes most people that live in the heartland “red state” areas.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    This is not the car to buy if you like driving -  at all. This is the car to buy if you have nothing but utter contempt for cars and those that drive them; especially if your idea of ‘highway driving’ is going 55 mph. If I ever see a leaf on the freeway doing the freaking double-nickle (and you know it’ll be in the left lane) I am going to crowd and intimidate.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I wonder what its range is at 70-75 MPH. It can’t be any more boring to drive an electric down a wide, straight freeway than to drive a gasser down the same wide, straight freeway.
    The average commute is around 30 minutes and 20 miles, a couple of incidental trips and a 60 mile range is about the practical minimum. If I had a short (15-20 miles or minutes) commute this would definitely beat warming up a gas car just to shut it off right when it starts working correctly.
     

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed.  I have a 18-mile round trip commute through both hot and cold temperatures, and with hills.  The Leaf would be perfect for me, but I’d have to use another car for the occasional longer drives.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Nissan projects that after ten years, battery capacity will be between 70 and 80%, depending on usage and charging patterns. So range will deteriorate by some 20-30%.

    I think is the other vay around, after 10 yrs, only 20-30% left.  Or else we no need to buy new car batteries! Mind u the old car batt is still good for camping , lighting or other less demand uses, but not starting your car.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      My understanding is the backup power industry is salivating to get a hold of these batteries (e.g. Volt, Leaf, 500, etc. etc.) when they are spent for auto operation but still have 50%, 60%, etc. of life left.  I was reading they are ideal for auxiliary power and commercial backup power solutions.  The ability to hold just half of their capacity is acceptable as they aren’t in a charge/discharge charge/discharge charge/discharge state.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      Interesting. So the early adopter is also in line to add battery capacity for night-time discharge to their self-sufficient, probably solar, home power supply that they are also early adopters of?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @Advo – the half spent battery packs aren’t for home use, but backup power sources at say data centers or other business operations.  That is what I had read, I guess I can dig for the article.

  • avatar
    mrog71

    Has there been any testing around what happens to one of these plug-ins in a wreck?  I’m guessing these batteries are not small – do they end up in the front seat in a high-speed crash?  I guess they are dry-cell so you don’t have the acid hazard, but how bad would the electrical fire be?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Has there been any testing around what happens to one of these plug-ins in a wreck?

      I doubt it.  Major automobile manufactures never crash test cars before releasing them to the public these days.

      /sarcasm

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    As a second or third car, the $32.58K Leaf (before government handouts) the Leaf makes sense, if you have the resources to shell out $25.8K for a car, $2K for a charger, and say $50 extra a month for the insurance.  Yikes!
     
    Here in Puget Sound, one of the Leaf’s first target markets, and where Nissan is making a big investment in charging stations in the region, as a primary vehicle it wouldn’t make sense.  Nissan’s own testing indicated that in heavy stop-and-go-traffic on an 86 degree day with AC on your range drops to just 47 miles.  Pad 20% for bingo capacity and you’re down to 37.5 miles.  Try doing a round trip to Microsoft on a warm summer Friday and you’ll put that range to the test.
     
    But here is where I see this being a non-starter as a primary vehicle in this region.  Lets say you live in Seattle and you ski or snowboard.  The nearest ski area is about 54 miles away one way.  Under the most ideal of conditions (flat, non-highway speed, and 70 degrees out) you could get there.  You’re talking about starting out your drive at 45 to 50 degrees, driving into 25 to 30 degrees, and driving at 60 to 70 MPH at a steep elevation gain.  Then sit parked in the cold, and come back (admittedly down hill) at highway speed again.  It just doesn’t work out.  Even if the ski area has a charging station what happens if it is in use or broken?  At least in Seattle if it won’t get you to the closest ski areas and it won’t get you onto the Peninsula, you’re DOA.  The love the mother earth crowd here wants to be able to experience mother earth, and I don’t see them giving up their Subies or Prii to have their cake and eat it too.
     
    Nissan’s initial claim of 367 MPG was as whacky as GM’s claim of 230 MPG on the Volt.  In both automakers defense, they based those numbers on the testing requirements given to them by the EPA, and then thrown into the trash can when the EPA deemed the results unrealistic.
     
    A Leaf owner may be quite content driving at 50 MPH on the freeway, but if the posted speed limit is 70 MPH in anything but the lightest of traffic it becomes a very dangerous proposition.  Driving 20 MPH under the speed limit is every bit as dangerous and disruptive as driving 20 MPH over.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      “Driving 20 MPH under the speed limit is every bit as dangerous and disruptive as driving 20 MPH over.”
       
      More so, actually. The single overspeed driver is generally the only one significantly affected by the other traffic, having to manuver to avoid it. The road boulder forces a constant stream of traffic to part and flow around it, creating a ripple of disturbed traffic in all lanes and for a long distance behind. And that’s assuming the road boulder is travelling a consistent speed. Throw in the standard “random speed selection” behavior which is prevalent on the roads near me (Silicon Valley) and the chaos generated by one hypermiling EV could disrupt traffic locally for half an hour or more after its passing.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      But here is where I see this being a non-starter as a primary vehicle in this region.  Lets say you live in Seattle and you ski or snowboard.

      So, you can’t take your wifes RAV4 or CR-V?  I mean how do skiers with Boxters, Z4s, Mustangs or Vetts get to the slopes?  Do they usually use the more snow friendly vehicle in the family?

      Again, does no one here live in a multi car family?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @jmo, well since you’ve asked I’ve seen Boxters and plenty of Mustangs at the ski areas.  The road is clear and its a highway.  Tire chains are required in bad weather.  They can get up there with a moderately skilled driver even in less than ideal conditions.  The Leaf doesn’t have the range.
       
      The politicos in Seattle don’t want you to own two or three cars per family, let alone a horrific SUV, regardless of size.  Check out LLN and their op-eds on the War On the Car, and how Seattle is ground zero for it.  I don’t use a 4WD to get to the ski areas.  Even under horrific conditions tire chains are just fine.  But toss in the added load of clawing through the snow in the cold, at elevation, and at a steep incline of 6 to 8 degrees and there is no way a Leaf is going to give you the 108 miles round trip range needed to get there and back.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “The politicos in Seattle don’t want you to own two or three cars per family, let alone a horrific SUV, regardless of size”

      So, your median Seattle area family has only one car?  I find that very hard to believe.

      “But toss in the added load of clawing through the snow in the cold, at elevation, and at a steep incline of 6 to 8 degrees and there is no way a Leaf is going to give you the 108 round trip range.”

      I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that everyone is living in a one car family.  Wouldn’t a typical family take mom’s Odyssey skiing rather than dad’s TSX?  If dad replaced the TSX with a Leaf how would it impact the family’s ski plans?  I doesn’t seem like it would.

       

  • avatar

    The mayor of a neighboring small Pacific northwest town, who also does car reviews, posted on Facebook that he’s at the factory in Tennessee for some big-deal press intro of the Leaf. I wonder if it is freudian that this is taking place in the season of falling leaves.


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