Real Nissan LEAF owners exceed 100 mile range

by Ernie Hernandez on January 5, 2011

Blue LEAF driving on bridge

LEAF owners trek over 100 miles home from dealer

Two cautiously adventurous new LEAF owners chose to drive over 100 miles home in their inaugural drive of their new electric vehicle (EV). Guess what? They made it.

We say cautiously adventurous because an asterisk needs to be placed next to the entry in the book (for those who keep track of such things). More on the asterisk in a moment. Three employees of San Diego Gas & Electric decided to purchase the LEAF for their personal vehicle, for various reasons. They made their purchase from Fontana Nissan, east of Los Angeles. Fontana sent a driver down to pick up all three, and one chose to have his LEAF delivered to his home just to play it safe. But after taking delivery, the other two strapped in and hit the start button to (in the words of Steppenwolf) – “Get your motor running, Head out on the highway, Looking for adventure, In whatever comes our way”.

Choosing the conservative approach, they tiptoed the first few miles at just over 50 miles per hour. After getting honked at by one driver, and scowled at by another, they decided to pick up the pace to a steady 55 miles per hour. Keep in mind, the two intrepid adventurers were in contact with each other via bluetooth cell phone conversation pretty much the entire way. Once they settled in at 55 mph, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Just a quick side note; we drive all over Southern California freeways weekly. We drive from San Diego, to Yuma, Arizona. We spend time in Orange County and in the Inland Empire. We drive on these freeways in the morning, in the middle of the day, and in the evening. Yes… we drive a lot. While some would say driving 55 miles per hour in SoCal is hazardous, we would beg to differ. Many drivers drive sub-60 miles per hour (for whatever reason) routinely. Most freeways have enough lanes to accommodate a variety of speeds without any significant safety issues. That said, let’s continue on with our daring duo.

The “cautiously” in the “cautiously adventurous” above comes in here. The pair chose to stop at the Nissan dealership in Temecula to top off with juice. Many Nissan stores in the Southern California market are LEAF certified dealerships. What this means, is that the dealership had to provide certain upgrades to their facilities. These upgrades included installing two publicly available 220/240 volt charging stations for Nissan customers. Temecula is a LEAF certified store. But just to stay on the good side of the dealership (after all, one never knows when he might need a little more juice), the pair called the store ahead of time and asked for permission. And while they were waiting for their cars to charge, they enjoyed some popcorn and bought out the inventory of four LEAF license plate frames that the dealership had just received. In their 90 minute stay they picked up about 18 miles of range.

Nissan Dual Charging Dock

This is a typical public charging station arrangement at a Nissan store

The drive from the Fontana dealership to their homes was about 110 miles. They live in different areas of San Diego, but about the same distance from Fontana. The side trip to the dealership in Temecula added a couple miles. When they got home, they each had about 18 miles left. So could they have made it all the way? It sounds like they might have just coasted into their respective driveways. But with a LEAF, since there is no engine noise, a curious neighbor might ask about the lack of noise from under the hood. Our response might be – “Yeah… it always sounds like that”. While there may not have been an American flag theme painted on the gas tank (Oh… wait… there is no gas tank)… these two were “Born to be Wild“.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

garland taylor October 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Sounds great, but we just tracked our lat 27 trips here in Oregon. Averaged under 67 miles per full charge. These were round trip events, so any elevation change shouldn’t matter. All were in traffic. We’re seeing the mileage drop with the temperature. Now, closer to 55 miles per charge. Nissan dealer service argued with me today saying Nissan never said the Leaf would get close to 100 miles per charge.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) October 14, 2011 at 8:06 am

garland – welcome to Living LEAF.

Since this article, we have written several others regarding range. This one shows the various test methodologies and projected mileage in various situations. And as we say on a regular basis, the real world range should be estimated at closer to 60 to 80 miles per full charge, depending on driving conditions and driving style.

Two points that I’d like to make though. Elevation change absolutely does matter. Although you go downhill as well as uphill, the regeneration gained is not equal to the extra power used. You will always use more power going uphill, and if the terrain change is dramatic it will have an impact on your range. Personally, we drive our LEAF aggressively from stop lights primarily to educate other drivers that an electric car is not slow. With over 3100 miles now our energy usage is 3.5 miles per kilowatt hour. Even at that, we should be able to get roughly 70 miles or more per full charge.

Second point – the Nissan dealer service person you talked with doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Tell him to look on the NissanUSA.com website and he will see that Nissan does represent that the LEAF will travel 100 miles. But every reference to that range also references the EPA LA4 test cycle, with a link in the disclaimer to the EPA’s graph showing the driving style required to achieve that range. If you look at the graph, you will see that the average speed is 21.2 miles per hour with a maximum speed between 50 and 60 miles per hour, which was achieved for around two minutes in a 30 minute test. If you drive like that you can reasonably expect to get close to 100 miles range from a full charge. The fact of the matter is, most people don’t drive like that and so will not achieve that range regularly, if at all. The disclaimer also states that the EPA has rated the mileage at 73 miles.

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Phil Bardsley December 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Ernie wrote: “Personally, we drive our LEAF aggressively from stop lights primarily to educate other drivers that an electric car is not slow.” So do I! The Leaf is fun to drive, and I want to show the ICE drivers how fast and fun it is. I really don’t want to be the hyper-miler who frustrates all the other commuters who are already late for work. Instead, I pull ahead of them up hills and show them the true power and joy of the Leaf.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 18, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Glad to hear it!

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Ray Rippey January 16, 2013 at 1:20 am

I drive my leaf to work (5 miles one way) everyday. But then, many times I’ll take my wife to Medford (OR) which has a pretty good little hill that always uses one energy bar. So that’s about 30 miles one way… then I can drive a little in town, and get back OK. Fortunately there’s a Chevron station with a fast charger that I can use If I think I’m low. I know I don’t want to try and make it back on the freeway with less then 5 bars… And I drive 65 on the freeway. If I’m going to drive slow, I can take a side road back.. still have to climb the hill, but slower, so less power used.

This winter I have to use the defrosters quite a bit… that really sucks the power. But overall, I love the car… 30 more miles would be just right though.

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Ray – Welcome to Living LEAF. As you get more comfortable with the car, and its instrumentation, you will be more comfortable with these drives.

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