Nissan Leaf Range Scenarios – Anxiety Provoking Or Not?

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
nissan leaf range scenarios anxiety provoking or not

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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  • APaGttH APaGttH on Oct 21, 2010

    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.

    • See 3 previous
    • Jmo Jmo on Oct 22, 2010

      "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.

  • Pete Madsen Pete Madsen on Oct 21, 2010

    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.

  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.
  • Lorenzo They may as well put a conventional key ignition in a steel box with a padlock. Anything electronic is more likely to lock out the owner than someone trying to steal the car.
  • Lorenzo Another misleading article. If they're giving away Chargers, people can drive that when they need longer range, and leave the EV for grocery runs and zipping around town. But they're not giving away Chargers, thy're giving away chargers. What a letdown. What good are chargers in California or Nashville when the power goes out?
  • Luke42 I'm only buying EVs from here on out (when I have the option), so whoever backs off on their EV plans loses a shot at my business.
  • Dusterdude When there is a strike the union leadership talk about “brothers and sisters “ . They should give up that charade . Bottom line is they are trying to wring out every last penny they can and could care less ( putting it politely) about the future of the industry 5 - 10 years+ down the road