So really… what’s the real-world range of the Nissan LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on June 9, 2011

Nissan LEAF expected range

That depends

[UPDATE: As you can see above, this article was written based on the 2011 LEAF in June, 2011. The 2013 LEAF driving range has improved roughly fifteen percent with no expectation for improvement for the 2014 model year. The remaining information in the article remains relevant to your everyday driving.]

The Nissan LEAF has been out for almost six months now, and still this seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer today is the same as it has been, and as it will continue to be – it depends on a number of things. If you are the impatient type, just scroll to the bottom of the article for the end result.

The above graphic is a representation on the Nissan LEAF website of what the expected range might be with a new LEAF under various driving scenarios. Each arc of the multi-colored rainbow represents the mileage that you might expect to see from a full charge and a new battery, based on different driving conditions. According to Nissan, the range might vary anywhere between 62 miles and 138 miles. Also according to Nissan – “how far you’ll go will depend on a number of variables”. There is one additional result that Nissan did not include in the graphic, but we will include it in our discussion below. Let’s take a look at each result, and you can evaluate how your situation relates to it. We will also include the EPA evaluation and why we think you must consider this result as well. We will start with Nissan’s advertised range of 100 miles.

EPA LA4 test cycle: 100 miles

Keep in mind that this test is done on a dynamometer under laboratory conditions. Wind resistance and vehicle weight are considered in calculating the results to simulate a real-world driving condition. This particular test is commonly referred to as the LA4 test cycle and it is designed to simulate a drive in the city of about 7 1/2 miles taking almost 23 minutes.  Top speed is 56.7 mph and average speed is 19.59 mph. Ambient temperature can vary from 68 – 86 degrees so no air conditioning or heating is used. In this EPA test cycle, the LEAF achieved 100 miles of range. Here is a graphic representation of the test from the fueleconomy.gov website:

Graph of EPA LA4 test cycle

LA4 test cycle courtesy of epa.gov

As you can see, if your commute includes any freeway or highway driving, this is not representative of your driving style. Top speed may be achieved only once or twice (briefly) with most of the driving consisting of stop-and-go in-town style driving with more common driving speeds of 25 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour with many stops along the way representing stop signs and traffic lights. If this is representative of your driving style, you can reasonably expect to see a range of about 100 miles on a full charge of a new Nissan LEAF battery.

These next results are based on Nissan’s computer simulations.

Ideal driving conditions: 138 miles

Apparently, “Ideal” means different things to different people. In this case, we believe that Nissan’s intent with this simulation is maximum range for the vehicle, which is likely not representative of  “Ideal” conditions for the driver.

In this simulation, the driver enters the car, starts it, and drives at a steady 38 miles per hour and doesn’t stop until the car stops moving. No climate control is used with ambient temperature of 68 degrees. Also, the drive is on a flat road. We suppose that you could actually replicate this in the real world in certain states but it would be difficult to achieve in most. Edmunds.com actually did a simulation of this test using four test drivers and a several mile long flat oval test track. The only real difference was in starting and stopping the car three times for driver changes, and they used a speed of 35 miles per hour. Edmunds achieved a total range of 132 miles – pretty much verifying the accuracy of Nissan’s computer simulation (within the variables cited).

So real world, will you be able to achieve 138 miles? Not unless your plans include driving from Sonora, Texas to San Angelo and back. Without stopping to enjoy San Angelo’s Downhome Uptown Goodtimes.

Suburban driving on a nice day: 105 miles

Here Nissan says that you will be cruising around town at 24 miles per hour on a 72 degree day with no climate control needed.

Highway driving in the summer: 70 miles

Now we are approaching real-world driving conditions with Nissan’s simulations. An average speed of 55 miles per hour on a 95 degree day with the air conditioning on gives us an expected range of 70 miles.

Cross-town commute on a hot day: 68 miles

Now our average speed is down to 49 miles per hour on a 110 degree day with the air conditioning on. Range drops to 68 miles.

Winter, urban stop-and-go, traffic jam: 62 miles

But what if you live in a cold climate? Nissan gave us a stop-and-go commute averaging 15 miles per hour in 14 degree weather, running the heater to keep warm. Keep in mind, your commuting logjam would need to last over four hours to reproduce this result.

One last simulation was in a real-world situation that we hope you never face – heavy stop-and-go traffic averaging only 6 miles per hour in 86 degree temperatures with the climate control set to max cool. Should you find yourself in these conditions be prepared to go 47 miles. I think I’d find something else to do until traffic cleared up.

EPA says you can go 73 miles

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed the test methodology to determine fuel efficiency in 2008. Previous to that, the last update to the testing procedure was in 1984. The newer testing procedures provide more real-world related data than the previous testing procedure. While the current system was not created with electric vehicles (EVs) in mind, the battery of tests applied to the LEAF is more thorough than that applied to conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. ICE vehicles undergo two tests – City and Highway. To achieve a more real-world result a Combined rating (55% City and 45% Highway) is provided to represent a potential overall fuel economy number. This combined number can be found on the window sticker of any new car and has proven to be much more accurate as a barometer of what an actual expected fuel economy might be.

In the case of the LEAF, the EPA has applied a 5-cycle test. The drive cycle of each of these tests is represented in the following graphs:

EPA City

EPA City

Courtesy of EPA.gov

EPA Highway

EPA Highway

Courtesy of EPA.gov

EPA High Speed

EPA High Speed

Courtesy of EPA.gov

EPA Air Conditioning

EPA Air Conditioning

Courtesy of EPA.gov

EPA Cold Temperature

EPA Cold Temperature

Courtesy of EPA.gov

The first three tests are performed with ambient air temperature of 68 degrees to 86 degrees with no use of the climate control system. The High Temperature test is performed with a lab temperature of 95 degrees and the air conditioning system turned on. The Cold Temperature test is the same as the City test, but performed with the lab temperature at 20 degrees and the heater turned on.

What we do not know is how the EPA combines these five test results to come up with their final number for an electric vehicle. As you can see, these five tests cover a much broader range of operating conditions and speeds. Not taken into account are terrain changes and load changes within the vehicle, which will also impact efficiency. Still, the combined results of these five tests is likely a much more accurate representation of real-world usage.

So really… what’s the real-world range of the Nissan LEAF?

We would have to go with the EPA’s 73 mile range for most people in the real world. Our own real world experience owning the vehicle for 2 months tends to back this up. We haven’t kept meticulous records. We don’t record every mile driven under every possible condition. We don’t track how long it takes to charge at night. We don’t expect the vast majority of potential LEAF owners to do these things either. We expect that most people that buy the LEAF will expect it to do what their previous vehicle did, just as easily. We anticipate that most people looking at the LEAF right now are aware that its range is less than an ICE vehicle. And we expect that most people don’t want to put any more thought into driving an electric vehicle than they did driving their ICE vehicle. In that respect, the LEAF is an unqualified success. If you really need more than a 70 to 80 mile range, and you don’t wish to modify your current driving habits, you would be well advised to wait for LEAF 2.0.

{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Twohy June 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

Dear Ernie,

Thank you for the great article! I am going to print it and give it to my friends that ask about how far a LEAF can travel on a single charge.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) June 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Thanks Frank. My hope was that it would provide enough solid information about the testing done by the EPA to achieve their result, along with how Nissan determined the 100 mile range. Many have provided this info in capsule form. I wanted to flesh it out a little.

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Adam Grimshaw July 18, 2011 at 9:06 am

My question is about testing that indicates the longer term battery life. How many years, or how many miles, or how many charges, could we expect the battery to last before performance degradation results, and how much longer until the performance degradation necessitates battery replacement? What variables potentially extend or degrade battery life? How much does it cost to replace the battery pack?

Presumably Nissan has completed life testing on the battery packs. Is this information publicly available?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Adam – welcome to Living LEAF. Good questions. In fact, these questions are so good, I will be writing an article that addresses them. Look for it soon.

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Kirk July 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Ernie,

I am very excited at the possibility of getting a Leaf. I have been pining for one for several months now. I live in Canada and real world results are critical factors in my buying decision. Yes, it gets cold (5F). Yes, it gets hot (today it’s 90F). There are only two times per year that you could drive without climate control (mid spring, mid autumn). I really want one but I don’t know if it will handle the daily commute. My wife commutes 110km per day (about 62miles) via highway. She travels at about 120 kph in her Altima. I assume she would be willing to drop it to 100 kph (62mph). Our gas expenses for an average month are more than $300. To drive a Leaf instead of a gas powered car would be AWESOME! From what I have learned from the graphs you published, she might be able to make the trip to work and back before needing a charge.

I’ll be watching this site regularly in anticipation of the CDN release of the Leaf!

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Kirk – welcome to Living LEAF. The Nissan LEAF truly can be a game changing experience – for the industry, as well as for those of us that own one. Regarding your wife’s commute, just to be on the safe side, it would be great if she could trickle charge the battery while at work. At 120 volts, the LEAF would gain about 4 to 5 miles of range for each hour plugged in. If she made such an arrangement with her workplace, she could absolutely make this drive, no problem. Many employers are looking to enhance their “green initiatives” by supporting recycling, reduced power use, etc. She may find that they would be willing to offer this as an added employee benefit, as have Google and many others. As we find additional employers offering such incentives, we will publicize this information to hopefully encourage others along this path.

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George Marsh July 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Great article and website! Is there any data available that estimates the drain on battery (i.e., watt-hour usage) should Leaf owner turn on the following accessories (e.g., for total of 60 minutes run time):

headlights (low beam)
headlights (high beam)
windshield wipers (continual low speed)
windshield wipers (continual high speed)
air conditioner (max cool setting)
heater (high heat setting)
ventilation (low fan speed setting)
ventilation (high fan speed setting)

Such info should provide a better indication of how “real-life” driving experience might effect driviing range and mileage per charge.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm

George – welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks for the kind comments. Of the accessories listed, the only real concern is heater use. Think space heater in an old house or a drafty bathroom. Heat is generated by running lots of power through a resistor which is highly inefficient at transmitting power thereby creating – heat. The rest really won’t soak up much. In our real world driving, we have found that the ventilation fan running by itself consumes just about as much power as the air conditioning. Neither take all that much. Just a wild guess – if you had everything running at once (A/C not heat) you might lose 10 to 15% of your range (remember – eco mode on the gear selector gives you about 10% more than “D”). The heater would take up more of your range, depending on speed, duration, terrain, etc.

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Steve August 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I am extremely disappointed with the Leaf and those simulations do not make me feel any better. The car is two month old. The truth is I cannot get anywhere with this car. I live in San Jose, CA. The real range of Nissan Leaf is 50 miles at most when driving on a highway at 65 mph in perfect weather, without a/c and on a flat road. I tried to get to Gilroy Outlets 35 miles away but I had to return home half way because the range indicator dropped from 119 to 39 miles about 18 miles away from Gilroy. The assumption of 55 mph drive on a highway is crazy. Who drives at this speed? The limit on 101 is 65 mph and at this speed the range drops 3 miles for every mile traveled. I cannot drive to Santa Cruz (Pacific Ocean) because the distance is 37 miles but the car needs to climb through the mountains. Reaching San Francisco is also iffy – 50 miles distance one way on the shortest route but this approaches the practical limit of the car (there are EV chargers in SF so after 5-6 hours of charging I could try to return home). My wife was very excited about this car. She signed up for the waiting list, selected car color and accessories, arranged charger installation in our garage. Well, now she claims that it was my idea to buy this car and it was her idea to purchase iPad tablet. Leaf is a very expensive toy and Nissan is not honest with its customers – when we call the dealer they still claim I should get 100 miles on 65 mph cruise control. I bought this car as a lease. Now I count days when I will be able to return it. I have to swallow ~$22,000 loss. This car is a piece of junk.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) August 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Steve – welcome to Living LEAF. First, if the dealer is telling you that you should get 100 miles at 65 miles per hour on cruise control, that is just mis-information. They likely don’t know that the 100 mile range is based on city driving, not highway driving. Unfortunately, many Nissan sales consultants/dealers just shouldn’t be talking to consumers about the car. As you found, they are doing more damage by providing incorrect information. For anyone else reading this, ask for the designated LEAF Sales Consultant or designated LEAF Sales Manager. They are the only ones that have received the proper training and information about the car. Many dealers let any sales consultant talk to a customer, and the mis-information flows like cheap champagne.

Regarding your personal driving experience – I am somewhat surprised at your result. While I have not meticulously tracked my mileage on any given day, you have just provided me with the reason to do so! I live in San Diego in the midst of dramatically varying terrain with lots of speed variations offered from city streets to a freeway within minutes of my garage. If you’re interested, come back for a look at what our real world, real car driving style test runs of varying scenarios provide.

EDIT: I had actually forgotten about my “Day One” post. In it, you will see that we covered about 50 miles, some of it at 80 miles per hour on the freeway, and still had 29 miles left on the clock. Nissan has since changed the firmware, and I will be sure to include that in my followup articles. While the update will not impact the range, it will impact the dash display.

I’m sorry that you feel that the LEAF is “a piece of junk”. If you truly feel that the LEAF is not right for your situation, perhaps you should try to find someone to take over your lease. Certain businesses apparently match interested parties in just that situation. I don’t know much about that market, and I’m not recommending it, but it would seem there are alternatives to keeping a car that you don’t want.

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Christopher July 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm

This probably won’t help how you feel, but I frequently make the round trip drive between north San Jose and Santa Cruz in my LEAF. It is easily done with miles to spare if you don’t push 65 mph (more like 60 mph) and keep to the 50 mph speed limit on 17 over the summit. If you’re more aggressive or not very consistent with applying power or you’re running the heater (easy to unwittingly do in the LEAF) or it’s a pretty cold winter day, these can all hit your range. On the other hand, there are opportunities to charge at either end. Just keep in mind that the range display is just an estimate based on your last few miles of driving – it doesn’t know if you’re going to continue going up or downhill or slower or faster.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Christopher – welcome to Living LEAF. As we have maintained, the range of the LEAF can vary dramatically based on driving style as well as terrain. Every individual has their own comfort zone regarding acceleration, vehicle speed, etc. With a vehicle like the LEAF, all of these can and do impact the resulting range. Thanks for your personal feedback on the real world range of the LEAF.

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Sharky August 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for the write up. I LOVE the idea of electric cars and have been very interested in the Leaf since before the original reservations were being taken. Although I didn’t initially sign up because of the price. I had since found a happy medium in the idea of leasing an orphan, but upon final decision with approval and leasing packet in hand, I have again reconsidered. It wasn’t until just yesterday that I really read up on the real world performance of this thing. It turns out that even being a hypermiler isn’t enough to get past the mileage limitations (meaning a range of ~ 70 miles). If you spend any time on the freeway- let alone driving safely and/or @ the posted speed- you are going to get hammered on range. Here in the hot southern environment where most everything includes some degree of freeway travel, I just don’t see it as feasible for the price involved as well as other limitations (absence of charging facilities, quality of the navigation system, paint and Carwings application, etc.).

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) August 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Sharky – welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for doing your research. I met someone the other day who already has 6,000 miles on their car in 3 months. For them, it works out perfectly (think of the fuel savings alone). Others, it just won’t work. That’s one of the reasons that we started this site. The last thing needed now is for people in the wrong situation to buy the car, and then share a negative experience with everyone they know. My first words to an inquiry are always something along the lines of “If you are in the right situation, it is a fantastic car. If not, you may be better off waiting for LEAF 2.0 (assuming more range by then), or considering something like the Volt”. Although the Volt is a plug-in hybrid, we would rather see someone drive that than a pure gas burner.

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jeff b September 19, 2011 at 9:44 am

Of all the comments written in this section, aside from the moderator, only Steve has had real life, real driving ownership information to share. And, unfortunately, Steve’s review couldn’t be much more negative. If Steve’s experience is shared by future posts, I think that Nissan is really going to have a real problem on their hands unless they can considerably increase the range of this vehicle (without a corresponding increase in its already very high price tag). Once the “early adopter” crowd is satiated, then the car’s fortunes will rise and fall on its price to benefit ratio, rather than upon emotional connection. And with a high initial entry price tag factored into a low benefit ratio because of an impractically short range, I just can’t see a way for the Leaf (as is) to be an intelligent choice for anything but a very small minority who never need to drive more than 35 miles from their home (35 x 2 = 70 (for a round trip), with 10 miles of range left in reserve; given a real world range of about 80 miles).
According to the latest automotive websites, Nissan will come out with another EV within a year (perhaps a sportier 2 seater, this hasn’t yet been disclosed); I’m just hoping that the next try will have a practical 200 mile range without increasing its price. Of course, on the downside, if it is a 2 seater, that would decrease its practicality and lower the benefit it would provide for many potential buyers. In any case, Nissan has serious need of improving the range in the next “Leaf 2.0″.
I’ll keep watching and hoping. My current hybrid is up to 117,000 miles on the odometer…I’ll try to keep it going long enough to replace it with a PRACTICAL electric vehicle which is sold in the area of $30K. Will that car be a Nissan?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 19, 2011 at 10:45 pm

jeff – don’t look for the range on the LEAF to double for several years. Battery technology is improving, but not at the rate of Moore’s law for computers where speed doubles every 18 months or so. Battery technology evolves much more slowly.

LEAF may not be the right car for your particular situation, but you’ll not find a 200 mile EV from any manufacturer for $35,000 anytime soon. Current technology just won’t support it. Future electric Nissan products include a small commercial van EV and and Infiniti sedan EV using current LEAF drivetrain technology.

Regarding your desire for Nissan to offer a 200 mile range without raising the price – that’s kind of like asking (insert your favorite car manufacturer here) to offer twice the horsepower without reducing fuel economy and without a price increase. How likely is that to happen?

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StellarRat May 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Actually, I completely disagree with your assertion that only a “very small minority” can live with a car that only can make a 35 mile round trip. I’ve asked around my office and 80% of the people that work here live within 20 miles of the office. I think the average American drives less than 37 miles a day if I remember correctly (around 1/2 the distance the Leaf can go on one charge). So, this car is eminently practical for most people at least a daily driver. In Oregon, Washington and CA a network of DC Fast Chargers is being installed that can bring you to 80% charge in 1/2 hour, so long trips are possible without anxiety. You need to think outside the “I can only charge at home” model.

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Ron November 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I just bought a Leaf a few days ago and immediately ran into range trouble. Charged to 80 percent (to save battery life) my wife returned after 42 miles of driving with only 6 miles remaining on the dispaly (which means probably only 4 miles considering we started with 80 miles on the display). Driving in suburban (30-45 MPH with traffic lights here and there) conditions with heater set to 70 degrees. Outside temp was 45 degrees. No passengers or cargo. And, drove the last 11 miles in ECO mode. That means we can get about 46 miles on an 80 percent charge under normal (for us) conditions with some use of ECO mode (which is dangerous when acceleration is needed) and no passengers. That corresponds to 57 miles range at 100% charge. This is less that what Nissan claims even under harsher conditions, and is not enough for our needs.

I love the car but feel mislead regarding range. And now I own a car that won’t go far enough. I could live with 70, but not 57.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) November 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Ron – Welcome to Living LEAF.

Everyone’s experience is unique in the LEAF. I’m sorry to hear that the LEAF may not be suitable for your needs.

I must say that I am somewhat surprised at your range limitation discovery. I reviewed the reference materials in the original post to see how they compared to your experience, and it looks like your particular experience was dramatically less than any of those. One thought that comes to mind is that Nissan changed the calibration of the “miles remaining” indicator since that original information was published. Early LEAF owners have had a Nissan dealership modification made to the range indicator which apparently offers a reserve when all battery bars are gone. My understanding is that all LEAFs delivered from the factory now have this modification. Prior to the modification, when your car got to zero bars, it stopped moving. My understanding is that now there is a reserve after the last bar goes out (kind of like the reserve on a gasoline car when the low fuel light comes on). I have not had this modification performed on my car yet. My suggestion would be to try this: When convenient, run a range experiment. Drive the car as you normally would, but with the intent of using all of the battery capacity. Obviously, as you get down to the bottom of the range you want to be near your home. Keep a close eye on the remaining battery life indicators. The first that will come on is the low battery warning. You will still likely have 10-20 miles of indicated range left when this indicator illuminates. Then you will experience the very low battery warning. Somewhere right around 10 miles remaining, the range remaining indicator will start flashing, then the display will change to “- – -“. (After re-reading your comment, obviously the calibration has been done on your car as it indicated 6 miles remaining). According to an Edmunds.com article, they went 10 miles at 35 miles per hour under this condition before the car stopped. Finally, if you are brave enough, you will experience all of the bars going out and the tortoise lamp coming on. For Edmunds, the car lasted exactly two more miles after the tortoise light came on, also at 35 miles per hour. With less than one mile left, the tortoise light went out and the red triangular warning light started flashing and the car started slowing down. We would expect this sequence of events to remain the same, although we haven’t yet tried it ourselves.

We would be interested in hearing back from you if you conduct this experiment. We intend to do the same, but in San Diego, we don’t face the low temperatures that you do. You may find that you need to charge to 100% daily to achieve a satisfactory range solution for your needs. Also, if available, you might plug in whenever the car is not being driven. I would also encourage you to try driving in ECO mode only until you get comfortable with your real-world range. While these things may not have been anticipated prior to your LEAF purchase, they may just provide you with an acceptable, if not ideal, resolution.

One thing that I think that you should be aware of though is this… when in ECO mode, full acceleration is not limited when needed. The beginning and middle range of the accelerator is modified to require more effort to accelerate normally. But when you fully depress the accelerator, you get maximum acceleration. In fact, one intrepid LEAF owner took his LEAF to Laguna Seca Raceway and raced the entire time in ECO mode to optimize regeneration.

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Ron September 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm

After nearly a year of ownership now, we recognize that the actual range is greater than the display indicates. There is significant reserve. When the displayed range gets to about 6 miles, it goes down about 1 mile for every 2-3 driven. We haven’t ridden the thing all the way to turtle mode, but now we think the actual range is close to the 73 miles reported by consumer reports. The heat taps the battery much more than the air conditioning. Driving fast also is huge. Range is MUCH greater at 50 than 70 MPH. Also, we’ve learned that if you punch it hard, you can indeed get 100% accelleration in ecco mode.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Ron – thanks for your input. When the LEAF was first delivered in early 2011 there was no reserve. When the last bar was gone, you were “running on empty”. With media reports surfacing of LEAF owners running out of electricity Nissan decided to modify the behavior of the Distance Til Empty (DTE) indicator. Early LEAFs have been modified, and all current LEAFs now still have a reserve after the last bar disappears. How much that reserve is (in distance) will vary from car to car as individual driving behavior, terrain and conditions vary.

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Harpster November 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for a great article. I drive 200+ a day. Waiting for the day technology can handle this part of my life. Not yet……

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) November 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Harpster – Welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks for the kind comment.

Battery technology and range is improving – but slowly. We won’t be seeing Moore’s Law-like changes in battery technology anytime soon. That said, we will be seeing longer range batteries likely in the next generation of the LEAF which should be out in about four years.

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Joe March 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

Maybe you should move closer to your workplace. 3+ hours commuting each day has profound implications on your health, the environment, your wallet, and many other quality-of-life factors.

Think of it this way, you are actually working a 52 hour week while only getting paid for 40.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Joe – Welcome to Living LEAF. In fairness to Harpster – he didn’t say that he commuted that distance, he said that he drove 200+ miles per day. Perhaps his job requires significant travel (ie: mobile notary, real estate, etc). Some jobs just require a lot of travel – like my day job for instance. An electric car is not yet suitable for all situations (including those just mentioned), but it is an amazing vehicle for the correct situation.

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Phil Bardsley December 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Ernie – thanks for your candid and thorough discussion of range issues. I’ve had my Leaf for about 3 weeks and am getting used to its limitations. But mainly I love how fun it is to drive!. Quick, handles well, and very responsive. I’ve had two home-built EVs before the Leaf (one of which I built), but nothing can compare to the Leaf. I love it! That said, I’m finding the practical range is about 50 miles when I use the heater. The advice in the owners manual is to charge only to 80% regularly to preserve battery life, and I think I don’t want to run it down into the red zone regularly (correct me if I’m wrong about the bottom end advice). So, that’s 20% off the top and bottom. Another 10% goes to heating here in North Carolina in the winter. That leaves 50 miles as a reasonable range to preserve battery life. I’m quite happy with that, and statistics say over half of Americans would be happy with that range as well. In my opinion, it’s a winner.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Phil – welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for your commentary on driving a LEAF in cold weather. You are the first reader that has commented on how much the heater reduces range. We charge to 80%, but have no qualms about running it down into the last two bars. We have heard of no engineering reason to not use all of available bars, but psychologically – that’s another story. We are also pleased to hear that you have been satisfied with the performance of your LEAF. We use the LEAF for just about all of our around town driving, and revert to using our 2004 Nissan Quest for family vacations and longer trips. We’ve said this before, and will say it again – the LEAF is not for everyone, but if it’s right for your situation, we think that you will be pleased with your decision to go electric.

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Colorado Leaf December 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Ernie. Thank you for posting useful data. You are a beacon of cheery light. After 9000 miles, I’ve gotten militant about the range issue. The number on the dash is a guess without knowledge. I’ve had my LEAF down to no miles range remaining and flashing very low battery, proceeded another 17 miles and arrived with 7 miles range left on the dash. True story (involved a Colorado pass, I’m sure you can figure it :) My commute is 26 miles one way. I set my cruise over 80 mph, crank the heat and don’t sweat the details. I have L2 at both sides and Steve’s EVSE upgrade with an extension cord rigged for a dryer plug. Seriously. This car rocks. 9000 miles and I’ve not been stranded. I’m more worried that it doesn’t have a spare tire…. Pre-heat the cabin using Carwings or timer. Find the resources you need and get on with saving money. The tax incentives ($13,500 in CO) make this car a low cost winner. Compared to the A3 I was considering, this car is inexpensive to – buy, maintain, operate. It has been everywhere the car it replaced had been in the last 10 years. And NO. It won’t pull a 5th wheel trailer for vacation. The AC is pretty efficient. It’s the heater that will work the battery. I’ve seen a draw of 4.5 kw/h with an air temp of +2F. Once the cabin is warm, that moved down to ~3kw/h. What that does to your range is time dependent. Do The Math.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Colorado Leaf – welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks for the kind comments and more importantly, thank you for your real world contribution to your driving experience of the LEAF. San Diego offers a moderate climate, and our personal driving does not tax the vehicle’s range capabilities. It’s great to see someone that uses the car in cold weather with significant terrain changes that is able to comfortably complete all of their driving needs. For those new readers, there is an available (non-Nissan) upgrade that will upgrade the performance of the supplied 120-volt EVSE to either 120-volt or 240-volt, whichever is available. If you are in a position to have a 240-volt outlet at work, this could be a great way to optimize the range capability of your LEAF while minimizing your own range anxiety issues. It’s also a great way to work around the need to have a permanent 240-volt charge solution if you happen to live in a condo, apartment or rent your home.

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Zim February 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm

8500 miles on our Leaf in SoCal. Reliable range is 70-75 miles with heavy freeway driving for daily 60-mile round-trip commute. AC affects range little, but heater is a battery drain as noted by others. Daily commute is done in Eco mode, but regular Drive mode is much more fun on weekends. We charge every time to 100%.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) February 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Zim – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for the commentary on your personal experience. Many that read these pages are hungry for exactly this kind of information.

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Robin April 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I have driven 5,500 since July w/my leaf. It is the perfect town car for me. City to city I am safe to 25 miles out and back (50 total) in the cool N.W. in the winter, temp. 30 to 48 F. Now that is warmer I can go out and back 40 miles, temp. 45 to 65 F. I just completed a trip to Corvallis 38 miles. I drove the old highway at 35 mph. I left w/105 and arrived w/85. That’s 38 miles w/20. Temp. 60 F. I returned to Salem and dropped off my passenger downtown and came home distance 48 miles w/28 left on the gage. The return trip was at 45 mph. The trip was over hilly country. Your highway speed is the #1 critical factor. Temperature is #2. Using the heater is #3. When driving overland I suggest keeping the heater between 60 (off) and 68. But for the city there is nothing better than the Leaf.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) May 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Robin – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for your input. More and more people are finding that the LEAF is a great vehicle for their everyday driving needs. Again, it depends on your particular situation. Your experience shows that even in hilly terrain and cold weather, the LEAF can prove more than up to the task. Also, thanks for your analysis on real world driving impacts – vehicle speed, temperature, and heater use. Many potential LEAF owners will find that quite useful.

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StellarRat May 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Highway speed is THE most critical factor for Leaf range. Anything over 60 mph is going to reduce your range greatly. I had an 80% charge and made a mostly flat 52 mile trip on the freeway (one way) at 60 mph using Eco Mode, no climate control, and ended with 7 miles left on the “predictor”. Something that would be most useful is a chart that shows range vs. speed for Leaf at 72 degrees outside temperature with no others factors considered. If I remember correctly air resistance vs. range is a squared function, so 60 mph vs. 40 mph requires roughly 2 times the power per mile to overcome air resistance, while going 70 mph requires 3 times as much power. Just increasing from 60 to 70 mph increases your power consumption by 33%.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) May 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

StellarRat, Welcome to Living LEAF. We had a chart up that showed the relationship of speed to energy use. I’ll have to see if it’s still here, or if it got blown up in our server crash. If I can find it, I will include it in the “Start here” page of articles. Thanks for your input.

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StellarRat May 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I also have to point out that Oregon, Washington and California (I think) are all part of the Green Highway project. A network of DC Fast Chargers is being installed down the length of I-5 and many other state highways. They are going to be no more than 30 miles apart and within 1/2 mile of the freeway. It only takes 30 minutes on one of these to get to an 80% charge in the Leaf. This was the primary reason I decided to get the Leaf instead of a hybrid. I’m quite comfortable with this being my only vehicle. The network of fast chargers means you really don’t need to worry about range.

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Marc Rowe August 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I love my leaf, I have owned it for a couple of months now and it has 2,200 miles on it. I live in Omaha, Nebraska and travel to Missouri Valley Iowa once a week and I travel exactly 65 MPH and I do use the climate control set to auto and 70 degrees which runs the A/C. I leave with a full charge, and my range indicator will read 100 or so, but I pay it no mind, none at all as it does decrease 3 miles for every 1 interstate mile driven, but I know this & I’m not an idiot so I can do math… The range estimator is a estimator for city use and I’m doin interstate here folks !!!

I am traveling EXACTLY 30 miles on the interstate one way, and EXACTLY 30 miles on the interstate back. Omaha and Iowa have zero elevation change, these two interstates have no hills… NONE. I drive it to & from and when I get back home it always has read I have 4 miles remaining. I live one tenth of a mile from the interstate and where I go in Iowa is two tenths of a mile off the exit, so I can tell y’all, this car goes exactly 60-64 miles on the interstate at exactly 65 MPH with the cruise control on and the a/c on. I did scoot it around for a while when you get below 4 miles left it blinks a couple of dashes and it does that for a surprising 5 minutes or so of neighborhood 25MPH driving. Then it goes into “Turtle” mode where that little yellow turtle shows up you see on the instrument panel at start up, with the pedal to the floor the car only goes 10 MPH in that status. I drove in turtle mode about two blocks back to my home. I just drove around the neighborhood to see how long the blinking lights would last. Curiosity right????

I love the car, love it, love it, love it!!!! I look at the gas stations as I drive by and think “suckers !! ” but then I take my gas vehicle out to drive to Lincoln ( 60 miles away Leaf wouldnt get me back ) to see my lady, and the Durango feeds on gas like I did on beer in college…..

“Mmmmmm… beer.” Homer Simpson

So next….. buy another gas car with high MPG I can drive 150 interstate miles with to see my gal !

I have, by the way, in city driving, left 144th street with 12 miles on the counter, and arrived home which is 13th street, and had 10 miles on the coutner. It should have gone to blinking stage, but if you drive with that bubble in the idle position, that Leaf will go forever on a charge !! I would not be surprised if I only drove in the city and I watched that bubble meter & never let it go over 3 bubbles to the right at acceleration and kept it in the idle position to maintain speed, that Leaf would go almost 170 miles before needing another charge. That is one test I probably wont ever do with the car, but I am comfortable leaving for a movie 80 blocks away ( 160 round trip or 13 miles ) with 12 miles on the counter. For city driving the estimator is on par for Omaha NE, nice and flat….

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) August 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

Marc, Welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for the real-world driving experience. Obviously everyone has different environments, driving styles and situations, but the more feedback provided here, the better this resource becomes for everyone else. Thanks again.

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James Harrison August 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

Until technology gets past the lithium ion battery, the current state of the art, mileage will remain very limited for electric cars. This is why some characterize them as nothing but glorified golf carts.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) August 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm

James – Welcome to Living LEAF. I must disagree with the characterization of electric cars as glorified golf carts.

A quick perusal of LEAF owners on the My Nissan LEAF forum will show many that have driven 20,000 miles or more in just twelve months of ownership. There are at least two that have doubled that in just slightly longer time frames. I am on record as saying that the LEAF is not the right car for everyone. But given the right situation, it can be an outstanding primary car. I totally understand that not everyone can afford two cars. Don’t buy an electric car. I get it that some people need to drive 80 miles per day to commute. Don’t buy an electric car. I personally don’t need to haul a bunch of stuff around routinely. I didn’t buy a truck. But there are a lot of truck owners that never use their truck for what it was intended. They buy it for the “What if…?” If the LEAF were truly a glorified golf cart, you would not see these vehicles accrue the mileage they have in the period of time that they have.

My first computer had 640K RAM and a 10 megabyte hard drive, and cost over $2,000 as I recall because it also had a 16 color monitor while those around me made do with amber or green. It worked for what I needed it to do. Had those early computers not had supporters, consumers today would likely have waited longer and paid more for their technology. Any time a new technology comes along the very real possibility exists of a two steps forward, one step back progression. It is the moving forward that counts. But with any new technology, whether it is cars or computers, one would do well to keep in mind that it is called cutting edge for a reason.

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Bob Reed September 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I use my Leaf in my daily commute to work (about 11 – 12 miles roundtrip) and for running errands around town. The only issue I have with it is when I run several back-to-back errands. It’s easy for the cumulative mileage to add up. You always have that “can I make it home” anxiety hanging over your head. I suppose I’ll get used to that though.
One question I wanted to ask is – what is the average miles per khw that drivers are getting? I’ve been getting 4.5 – 4.65 according to Carwings and I have not been able to achieve an average of 5.

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John October 14, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I have a very simple question and I have not been able to get a simple answer to this. I am looking to buy this car for my wife.
She is a careless driver, tends to drive fast at higher speeds, breaks fast & accelerates fast and is not ready to change that. (believe me, we had a discussion :) ) Her averae speed on freeway is at least 70mph.
She would be driving to work from San Jose to Palo Alto and back. Total driving distance of 33.7 mi each way, so total ~ 68 miles daily. The distance is 95% freeway with 5% hilly area inside roads around San Jose where we live. Would this car work for us???

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) October 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

Hi John – Welcome to Living LEAF. As I’m sure you’ve heard from others you’ve asked, there are no simple answers! :-) The real answer is this – it depends. Based on her current driving style, and commute, I would say that to be safe, she would want the ability to charge during the day. Fortunately, as can be seen on the plugshare.com website there are a number of commercially available sources in Palo Alto – including a DC quick charging station at the Stanford Shopping Center. Another possibility would be to ask if she could trickle charge at work, using the 120-volt charging brick that comes with the car. Over the several hours at work, she would add a cushion to be able to get home no problem. The cost is literally pennies per day with this option, and she could offer to pay for this use so that other employees don’t see this as special treatment. Keep in mind that battery degradation is a consideration over time and that at some point in the future, even if she can make the commute without charging initially, at some point in the future, it will become a requirement. The LEAF is a wonderful car given the understanding that it is not exactly a replacement for a gasoline vehicle. The single biggest consideration in your particular situation is the speed of the commute. Driving at 70 mph will use significantly more energy than driving at 60 mph. Living in Southern California, I know that adjusting your driving speed during commuting hours is not an easy or convenient thing to do. So to answer your question – if your wife is willing and/or able to charge during the day, the LEAF will absolutely work. If not, she may need to allow more time for that commute. Good luck with your decision!

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Kevin Raeder November 26, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thanks to all of you who have contributed your experiences with mileage! It helped convince me to buy a Leaf in May, 2012.
I’ve found that I can do the 80 mile round trip from Boulder to the Denver International Airport, driving 60 mph on the 10
miles of highway, and 35-55 mph on the remaining 30 miles of side streets, with stops, but not using much heat/AC.
I can’t, however, do the 100 mile round trip to Fort Collins, which is about 1/2 highway. The higher speeds generally make a
big difference in range. Consumer Reports found that at typical car speeds, energy use is directly proportional to speed,
so increasing speed by 10% will increase energy use/mile traveled by 10%. But I learned in school that over a wider range
of speeds the energy used is proportional to the speed squared, or even cubed. So increasing the speed by 10% would increase
the energy use by 21% (speed x 1.10×1.10 = speed x 1.21).
Last night I finally got around to testing the reserve in the battery. That is, how far can I go when the estimated miles says ‘0’.
I drove around my neighborhood at speeds up to 35, up and down some gradual hills until I went into ‘turtle’/restricted power mode.
As the estimated number of miles falls to single digits, I saw what others report; I got 2 miles of travel out of each estimated mile.
A half mile after the estimate went to 3, it changed to the flashing bars. 6 miles later, at the top of a hill, the turtle light went on.
I didn’t notice any loss of power, but I stopped to note the odometer, and then turned around to head home. Within about 10 seconds
I noticed the restricted power kick in. And, in fact, the car shifted itself into neutral and refused shift into drive, even though
I was rolling downhill, which I thought would recharge the battery. The steering and brakes still worked, so I coasted most of
the way home, around a half mile. There’s a short up-hill just before my house, but my momentum wasn’t enough to get me home.
So I parked it, and tried again to put it in drive, thinking that the battery might have recharged enough to get me home. But
apparently when it’s in neutral, it won’t recharge when braking or coasting downhill. Fortunately, I was in front of a friend’s
house, so I got my trickle charger from home, let it charge for an hour, and drove the rest of the way.
Speaking of trickle charging, when I was shopping for the Leaf, I read about the “EVSE Upgrade”, which allows the trickle
charger to handle both 110 and 220 V power. I didn’t find any complaints about it online, and the added flexibility was irresistible,
so I sent my charger in for the upgrade. That allowed me to install a simple 220 V outlet in my garage, rather than the more
expensive and less flexible charging station from Nissan. In addition, I saw the “Quick 220″ device, which combines 2 standard
(grounded, non-GFCI) 110 V outlets into 220 V. The combination of the Upgrade and the Quick 220 enables me to do standard 220 V
charging at most places that have 110 V power. The Quick 220 is not intended for ‘continuous use’, so I don’t use it at home, which
is 98% of my charging. That’s why I installed the 220 V outlet at home. So far I’m very happy with this system.
Only time will tell whether the Leaf battery is as happy as I am.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) November 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Kevin – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for your contribution to the continuing dialog on this page. It is turning into a great resource for those contemplating LEAF ownership. Also, your contribution to bottom of the battery use is valuable. Some new EV owners might think that traditional hypermiling techniques will help with the LEAF. In fact, placing the LEAF in neutral disengages the drive motor, so it is no longer acting as a generator to recharge the battery. It is better to leave the LEAF in ECO mode when coasting down hill to maximize regenerative braking capabilities.

Really glad to hear that the EVSE upgrade is working out for you. We still have not performed the upgrade, as we have had no real need for it, but many find it an attractive alternative to installing a hard-wired 240-volt EVSE charging station. Have fun with your LEAF!

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Justin H December 12, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I have had a ’12 SL LEAF for the past 4 months, 5000miles, Commute 68Mi RT slight elevation change, mostly 45-50mph and one 1mi hill to work (which i get the downhill effect on the way home). Charge 100% during week and 80% on weekends. I get to and from work 4-5bars (out of 12 battery bars) each way. Preheat cabin from wall power before i leave (with the nice Nissan Built in Timer) and occasional bump heat/defroster on to warm up if need-be. Seat warmers and steering wheel heater does miracles.

I do push this car to the limits. I was averaging 26mpg in my Forester thats roughly $55-60 per week in petrol. Now im around $48-65 month in electricity. We do drive more since we are on Electrons, and we kept out beloved FX35 for the family car and long trips. Dogs, Carseat and 2 adults, the LEAF has plenty of room (for us atleast)

All I can say, No it wont go 100miles (in normal driving conditions), yes you may need to curtail driving habits if your commute (one way) is over 25miles. But go drive one, rent one, or do a short term LEASE and enjoy it.. They are fun and SUPER quiet. You might just get hooked! I Did.

Nissan is still using the $7500 Fed Tax Credit for Leasing, and you can claim it for Purchasing.
ECOtality (theEVproject) by DOE is still doing FREE L2 Blink EVSE’s and a nice credit towards install. (Saves over $1,200 right there)

Happy EV’ing

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) December 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Justin – Welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks much for the feedback on your commute with the LEAF. As you noted with your particular situation, your energy cost has been reduced about 75 percent compared to your Subaru – a remarkable amount that contributes significantly to ownership satisfaction with the LEAF we’ve found. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you do have a second vehicle that you can use for longer trips as needed. If those trips are rare, some may be able to get by with a LEAF as their only car with the occasional rental to cover those situations. Again, thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

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Larry Hayes January 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I’ve been following the Leaf and the Chevy Volt with much interest since their development. (My hobby is e-biking so I have a keen interest and decent knowledge of lithium battery development and limitations as well.)

Two questions for the board here; all knowledgeable posters are welcome to respond:

1) Why didn’t the engineers at Nissan develop a liquid cooling system for the Leaf battery pack? Given how critical temperature control is for lithium cell longevity, this seems like a no-brainer to me, especially given GM engineers went with liquid cooling on the smaller capacity Volt pack. Too much of a rush to market is my best guess but I would love to get an insider’s perspective/response. Will the 2G Leaf pack have it?

2) I’m seeing quite a few very low mileage (most under 5K) nearly new Leafs being sold on EBay motors recently in the $20-23K range, mostly by established car dealers (not necessarily Nissan dealers, they appear to be high volume used car dealers who someone get their cars below auction pricing.) The cars appear to be in great shape and pass the Car Fax reports with high marks. Any idea
why these cars are being sold at close to a 50% discount from MSRP new in such a short time? Unless these are just a few aberrant deals, it sure doesn’t look good for Leaf residual values over time, and at this point I think you’d be foolish to buy one outright at new sticker price. Does anyone here know what’s going on with this pricing? I understand there are no fed or state tax credits on used EVs but even factoring that in this price drop seems extreme. There is one dealer in PA that appears to have at least a half dozen of these that they’re trying to move in this price range. Have to admit I’m tempted to bite at this price point.

Thanks for this forum and any input!

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Larry – Welcome to Living LEAF.

Regarding your first question, unfortunately no one outside of Nissan knows the answer to this, and at least to date, no one is willing to share. While Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, did want to make it to the market first, I don’t know how much that had to do with not employing an active thermal management system. Anyone that says otherwise is speculating, unless they can provide a corporate source. I don’t know the extent that Nissan long-term tested the LEAF battery pack in hot weather environments, but it is safe to say that it was not enough. I don’t know that any car maker would be willing to subject themselves to even more vilification on the topic, so I think it would be a safe assumption to look to LEAF 2.0 having some sort of active thermal management.

As far as used car pricing, what you are seeing is real world pricing reflecting the $7,500 Federal tax credit to all of those new purchasers. The base price on a 2011 LEAF was $32,780. Less the $7,500 and the cost to the customer was just over $25,000. What you are seeing in the used market is pricing reflective of that purchase cost, not the $32,780 on the window sticker. The same was true of Toyota Prius when it first came out with incentive cash offered, as well as the Volt and others currently. The 2011 Volt started at $40,280 and is available in the mid-$20,000 range on EBay (as of today). Current resale is a reflection of the Federal tax credit being folded into the new selling price. Having driven a LEAF for nearly two years, it has proven to be an outstanding experience. The caveat is that your driving situation needs to be appropriate for an electric vehicle. In essence, if your daily commute is longer than 60 miles round-trip, you may want to reconsider. Or see about options to charge while at work. If it works out for you, the LEAF offers a rewarding experience in many ways.

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Robin January 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

Larry Hayes asked, “1) Why didn’t the engineers at Nissan develop a liquid cooling system for the Leaf battery pack?”

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) answered, “… unfortunately no one outside of Nissan knows this, and at least to date, no one is willing to share.”

It has been clear to me reading mynissanleaf.com over the past several months that Nissan, primarily via Andy Palmer, have been clear that liquid TMS was specifically rejected for several reasons and that passive air cooling was adequate.

Nissan hosted a townhall meeting with LEAF owners in Phoenix, AZ Jan. 8th where Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. spoke and this topic was addressed. Below are links to a video of the meeting and summary comments from several attendees regarding a battery TMS for the LEAF. Andy did seem to entertain suggestions for active air cooling to help address concerns of those in very hot climates. Perhaps something will come of this.

From http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=11057&start=310
“… video of the Jan 8 Nissan LEAF Town Hall talk posted on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuPQe23vP0Y
It runs close to two hours in length (1:53:17 to be exact), but it’s posted in its entirety start to finish.” LuvNLeaf
 
Here are extracts from summaries given in the tread by some attendees about a TMS for the LEAF:
“Nissan has no intention (at this point at least) of going to a fluid cooling system for the battery. When more than one person suggested that such a system would solve the problem, Andy was pretty clear in stating that “there are many ways to dissipate heat, and fluid is only one of them.” He really doesn’t think it is the way to go.” leafkabob

“There was some discussion on battery cooling. It was stated that Nissan decided not to add a temperature management system because of cost, safety, simplicity, reliability. Andy Palmer also mentioned that he worked in the area of heat management sometime in his career. When asked about liquid cooling, 140F ambient air on highways, and other systems using liquid cooling. It was mentioned that the LEAF battery is air cooled — similar to liquid cooling.” myleaf

“Andy seemed clear at the meeting that he doesn’t think much of liquid cooling for this particular application…” jlsoaz

“Andy at some point indicated/clarified that his background was as a Thermodynamic engineer …. something to do with HVAC? This was in conjunction with his repeated theme of there being different ways too cool and Nissan would not be looking at liquid cooling (due I think to safety, complexity, weight, also cost?).” jlsoaz

And a comment as to why no active TMS was used:
“Personally, and as an experienced EV Engineer, I agree with Nissan for choosing passive cooling. I do not think in the future we will see much active cooling for EV battery systems.
The chemistry will improve so as to be more heat tolerant, and the problems we have now will disappear!
If Nissan had installed active cooling, the Leaf would be heavier, have less range, and be significantly more costly. In addition, Active cooling requires power, which means it must be plugged in most of the time or even more drastic range reduction will occur.” Phil

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

Robin – Welcome to Living LEAF. My response was provided prior to this town hall meeting. The information provided there had not been available in such a fashion prior to that point. Your contribution to the discussion (along with your link to the video of the Arizona meeting) is welcome.

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Robin January 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Ernie, I noticed the date on your reply to Larry, but thought it best to provide updated info. And based on some interest shown by Andy at that meeting, it may be that Nissan will investigate “some sort of active thermal management,” as you mentioned, for the future. However, it doesn’t look like it will be liquid, but preferably simple, low cost and low weight — some enhancement of the existing passive air cooling design.

And I was in too much of a hurry to put together my first post that I neglected to let you know I’ve been reading your blog on and off the past several months and appreciate what you are providing for those interested in the LEAF.

Larry Hayes January 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

Thanks for the detailed response, Ernie. For some reason I thought the MSRP on the Leaf was closer to $38K. I must have been mixing it up in my mind with the pricing on the Volt.

I agree the Leaf can be a great solution for a local commuting or round town errand car. I applaud this forum for presenting real-life owners’ input regarding their experiences with the Leaf. Very helpful and informative–keep up the good work!

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm

You’re welcome. For the record, the 2012 starts at $35,200 for the SV and the SL starts at $37,250. So your estimate of $38,000 was not far off for a fully loaded 2012. But when it comes to the 2011s, the starting price was lower. And thanks for reading! I’m glad that you’re finding the site helpful.

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Justin H January 9, 2013 at 11:58 am

Everyone drives differently. Hard lead foot drivers get around 65miles, Im lighter and coast more and get 75 easily with traffic and a small amout of 65mph highway travel with my 68mile RT commute. I average 4.0-4.3mi/kWh while others driving harder get around 2.5-3.1mi/kWh. Ill agree with a real world of 73miles. Im bound to work towards a 100mile mark to join that club. After 5800 Gas Free miles costing roughly $100 in electricity I cant complain.

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Ray Rippey January 16, 2013 at 1:53 am

I bought my 2012 Leaf in Oct 2012… I freaked out because I left the dealer with a full charge and the mileage-o-meter said I had 97 miles, but when I got home, which is about 30 miles away, I only had 24 miles left…. which to me meant I could not make a round trip to town (Medford Oregon). I called the dealer the next day..

Long story, but I found out what the problem was… I was driving 70 on the freeway, Air conditioner on, Radio blasting, and the real culprit.. I was in Drive.

Now, I can drive to Medford roundtrip, no problem, in the winter, in eco mode, with the heater on, windows up, at 65. I use the defogger sparingly though… it sucks some serious spark. If I drive to much in Medford, not a problem, there’s a fast charger on my way home in Central Point… although one time it didn’t work… kept erroring out.. had to use the 240 and go hang out at the truck stop for 30 minutes.

I live right between Grants Pass and Medford, There are hills, and I have to climb to get to my house too. One time I had only one bar left when I got home.

I got the upgraded charger (bought it so I could keep my 120 charger in the car)… and it works great. I charge to 100%. I’ve got this on a lease for 4 years, then I’m giving it back. I figure by then they’ll have the leaf up to 200 miles,,, they have to compete with Tesla and Toyota. Maybe they’ll add in a small generator, or paint the car with solar paint.

Either way, I think the EV is here to stay. Once you’ve driven one for a while, it’s actually weird to get back in the old gas hog… and here the putt putt of an engine. Worry about my truck because perhaps it’s not firing on all 8. And also, I found I get much better gas mileage out of my other vehicles… I had to learn how to drive economically.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Ray – When you get down to the Low Battery Warning (LBW), you still have 15 to 20 miles of range left, depending on conditions and driving style. We don’t recommend that you explore this part of your range often, but here is a link to our own exploration of the bottom end of the range. Driving aggressively, we had about 17 miles after the LBW. Driving slowly, Edmunds.com had about 20 miles of range after LBS. As you are learning, the Distance Til Empty (DTE) indicator on the dash varies dramatically from real world experience. Nissan is still struggling with the proper algorithms to make it present a reasonable representation of remaining range. Our recommendation is to count the remaining bars. Driving aggressively, or at higher freeway speeds, you may get only 5 miles per bar. With a little more attention paid to your right foot and the speedometer, you may see as many as 7 miles per bar. Pay attention to miles per bar, and you will get very comfortable with your LEAFs capabilities.

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Larry Hayes January 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Robin,

Thanks for your post of 1/20 re Nissan’s defense of air cooling. I happen not to agree with a lot of their claims based on what I’ve seen in the e-bike world with lithium packs overheating under load but I hope they prove me wrong. I do understand that an all electric car presents much steeper challenges engineering-wise in regards to thermal management given the limited amount of available power, and perhaps this bodes poorly for this segment when compared to the versatility of a plug-in hybrid.

This may be completely off-base but I couldn’t help but think of thermal management being possibly the major problem with packs in the new Boeing superjet, banned now from US air space until they remedy the problem of their lithium packs catching fire.

It sure looks like the movement to lithium in larger scale applications has been premature in many cases, e.g. A123 and Fisker, Boeing, the Leaf, and many others, especially if you compare these cases to the Panasonic EV NIMH packs used in the Toyota Prius, which have been nearly flawless for over a decade, with many going 200,000 miles.

That said, the lithium pack in the GM Volt appear to be solid and reliable to date, and kudos must be given to the General for choosing LGChem as their partner in developing the same. It will be interesting to see which of the automobile lithium packs hold up best over time, including the pack in the new plug-in Prius.

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Riochard Willoughby January 24, 2013 at 6:32 am

After reading some of these range stories, I decided to do one of my own. I have been very disappointed in the range on my leaf since I got it. I wasn’t told what would happen in the cold weather. Here’s what I experienced this morning. I live about 25 miles from a “big town” and we go there often for shopping, meals, movies, etc. I drove my Leaf there today. The outside temperature was 7F. I never exceeded 55mph and followed the speed limits. I had the heater on with the car in D for the first 8 miles and then tried to switch to ECO. I have read that this cuts the power to the heater and it certainly seemed to. It almost felt like it shut it off altogether because it got too cold in the car. I went back to D after a few miles because I was cold. The car never did get “warm” inside but with a sweater, heavy coat and stocking cap and gloves I could survive. When I got to my closest possible destination (not driving around to 2 or 3) I turned around and headed home. I stayed at the speed limit until I was about 9 miles from home. I turned off the highway and went the country way home at 50 mph and turned the heater off. I did make it home with the remaining miles indicated at 3 miles after driving 42.9 miles. These are my real world numbers and they just don’t work for me. If I have to drive 35 mph without heat to get a good range, I should have bought a 3-4 thousand dollar golf cart. 50 miles is considerably shorter than Nissan’s “worst case” scenario. I really wish I didn’t have this car and that I could get out of the lease. I feel like I was lied to by Nissan or at least grossly misled.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Richard – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thanks for providing your own range experience story for others to see. My sense is that you did not see this article until after you leased your LEAF. Perhaps had you read this prior to your lease, you may have reconsidered your decision. As I point out at the end of the article, if you really need more than 70 or 80 miles of range, perhaps the LEAF is not for you. This statement is based on all of the EPA tests cited in the article. The low temperature mileage cycle returned 62 miles in the test. You mention that you were using the range remaining indicator to track your mileage remaining. I don’t know how long you’ve owned your LEAF, but you will find that this is not a particularly reliable method of measuring range. Also, you don’t state whether you started with a full charge (12 bars), or an 80 percent charge (10 bars). What I have found to be more reliable is the number of bars remaining. As you drive, watch the bars to see how many miles are covered per bar. In the extremely cold environment that you describe, perhaps jot down how many miles each bar provides. Then just multiply by 10 or 12 to get your projected total range after a charge. Keep in mind, that by using all of the bars you will take the LEAF down to the Low Battery Warning (LBW). In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Daily use that goes into the Very Low Battery Warning (VLBW – otherwise known as Turtle mode), is not recommended. Based on our own experience, we had 16 miles of range left after the LBW was reached – but that was not in 7 degree Fahrenheit weather. I would expect that you would have at least 10 miles left after reaching the LBW. Based on your comment, I would suspect that your total range would be between 55 and 60 miles in the conditions that you described, if you drove your car past the LBW. Also, keep in mind that your range will improve as the weather warms. Our experience has shown that each bar generally provides 5 to 7 miles of range. In extremely cold conditions, such as yours, the low end may drop to 4 or 4.5 miles per bar, though I think that is being pretty conservative. Your own driving can confirm that. If the LEAF really will not work for you, there are companies that specialize in marketing mid-lease vehicles. Perhaps you can find someone that will have the right situation for the LEAF. Good luck.

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Neil February 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Hi I just thought it useful to talk about the battery replacement cost, this has been cited by some and not refuted by Nissan as around £19,000 in the UK and that this could be required after 5 years. Nissan and all the governments backing EV’s with huge grants to purchase make no mention of this huge cost which makes an EV massivly more expensive to run than a conventional car, it also takes no account of the environmental cost of manufacturing all the batteries. It would be very refreshing for an honest look at “real world” costs for EV’s which must be the the most hyped of the “eco” save the world products. Please do not get me wrong, like every sane person on Earth I would love to have a zero polution car that costs nothing to run, the problem is that this is not the case and in the real world the truth is a long way from the story we are being sold. The actual range of these cars at this moment in time is irrelevant. As long as you are charging them on power produced mainly by coal or gas they are no cleaner than an economic conventional car costing half as much and lasting 15 years without any very very major costs.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) February 9, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Neil – Welcome to Living LEAF.

You bring up some excellent points. While it’s true that the battery is expensive, the easiest way to avoid the replacement cost is to lease your EV. In this way, Nissan is responsible for battery replacement. Also, unless you live in Phoenix, Arizona, Death Valley, California, or Dubai, it is unlikely that you will need to replace your battery in five years. In the Pacific Northwest, at least one LEAF has logged over 50,000 miles in just over two years with no battery deterioration reported yet. You mention Pounds rather than Dollars, so perhaps you are in the UK. In the UK, coal provided 67 percent of electricity in 1990 according to Wikipedia (found here). That was reduced to 33 percent in 2004. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (found here) by 2011 this was reduced to 29 percent. Much cleaner natural gas provided as much as 47 percent of electrical production in 2010, though it was down in 2011. In the United States similar reductions in coal production are being realized. Finally, one of the most recycled components in a traditional gasoline powered vehicle is the 12-volt battery. Most replacement batteries purchased by consumers are recycled batteries. According to the EPA (found here) 98 percent of lead acid batteries are recycled. While the recycle rate of lithium ion batteries is yet to be determined, our expectation is that the recycle rate will be relatively high. The gasoline cost over 15 years will rise significantly. You can see the historical rise of gasoline from under one dollar to well over four dollars in less than ten years here. While prices have receded somewhat since, the long term trend is appreciating significantly faster than electric prices (in the US). While a gasoline powered vehicle may not need significant repair costs if maintained properly, it does have higher maintenance and higher fuel costs than an EV. Certainly all costs, financial and ecological, must be considered. After considering them, we still believe that the EV provides a favorable alternative.

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Paul February 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Neil, I saw this a year later but I feel that society in general deserve an answer because your question seems predominant among many people these days.

Even if the electric power from the grid is 100% powered by burning coal, an electric car would still be better than using ICE cars, simply based on the fact that most EV charges are done in the evening, where the coal plants would have been wasting away those energies anyway. We are already using those coal, so there is no additional usage of coal. Plus in the US the electric power generated by coal is about 50% and declining every year.

Another thing to consider is that the coal plants are always running at close to optimal efficiency in converting from materiel to energy, while an ICE on average lose more than 60% of the gasoline to heat and losses, especially during start up.

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Ernie Hernandez February 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Paul – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thank you for your contributions to this discussion.

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John Frey June 30, 2013 at 5:16 am

I bought a used 2012 leaf on Ebay for 19,500. It’s a great car, and I absolutely love it. Here in Northeast Tennessee, we have a hilly terrain that tends to limit range, but this car goes everywhere we need and we charge it every 2 to 3 days. My wife does Meals On Wheels- it’s perfect for the stop and go of that job. So far we only charge on 120 volt, it has never been an issue, but today I’m going to wire 240 at home and at my workplace, and intend to buy a fully upgraded EVSE from the guys in California. I get a little weary hearing from the folks who poo-poo the range. I don’t take my F-350 work truck to church, and I don’t use my chainsaw to cut butter. Every tool has it’s proper use.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) June 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Mr. Frey – Welcome to Living LEAF, and thank you for your feedback on your early experience. Obviously, your car did not work for someone else – it was not the right tool for the right job. I have used that analogy almost from the beginning with this blog. Electric car range will continue to improve over time with various technological advances, but the EVs that exist today can absolutely fulfill the needs of many.

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Felix Egolf September 3, 2013 at 4:48 am

I maxed out @ 135.5 miles in early september in Switzerland doing a 116 mile loop thru 48 villages and towns with total elevation gain/loss of 4750 ft (gps data-logger readout). Overall average speed was 28 mph. With the last 1/12 of indicated battery level we did inner city loops until the turtle came up and hurried to the charger… Yes, you have to change driving habit if a longer distance comes up!

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Mr. Egolf – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thank you for providing your personal driving experience. Many will find your contribution helpful.

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Jack September 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hello Ernie – greetings from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Purchased a 2013 Leaf SL in June and couldn’t be happier. In the time we’ve had the Leaf we’ve never used more than about 30 – 40% of the SOC per trip (and we only ever charge to 80%).

Our Leaf is used as a city car and our Prius III ( anywhere from 3.9 L/100km to 4.3 L/100km) provides our highway transportation. Both cars compliment each other very nicely – the Leaf gives between 8.6 and 9.3 km/kwh (although we have had some results in the 10s) in is perfect for errands in the city (often 3 – 9 stops per trip), something the Prius did not do efficiently in cold weather (cooled down too much between stops necessitating a repeat warm up cycle after each stop – hence lowered efficiency).

An unexpected benefit – I am one who normally dislikes driving in slow, bumper-to-bumper city traffic. In the Leaf I am cocooned in a very quiet enclosure with no engine noise (and no gas use when “idling”). I find I almost enjoy a slow roll back home, filling that quiet void with jazz on Sirius radio.

Thanks for the great site…

Jack

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Jack – Welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks for the helpful comments. Sometimes I get too Southern California centric I think, forgetting that there is a global audience that can read my little blog. Your feedback will prove helpful to many – no matter where they live. And thanks for the kind comments. You made my day!

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Paul Behan September 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

Initial impressions, Leased my new 2013 Leaf at the end of July 2013, with only little research, I must admit my biggest inspiration was those little white HOV stickers. I live in San Jose and work in San Mateo and primarly drive flat freeway. Aprox. 30 miles freeway and 3 miles of surface street each way Hwy 87 to 101 to 92 to El Camino. Regularly need to travel between 65 and 70 to “keep up with traffice during the parts of the cummute and it can vary greatly. Some mornings it 65 to 70 the whole way. I do not have means of charging on site at work most days it I leave my house with a 90 to 100% charge and return with 25 to 35% charge. The car admitedly does great when traveling between 40 and 50 miles an hour which in my case is typical in heavy traffic and using a car pool lane. We have yet to install a level 2 charger at home but hope to soon, in the mean time it is hit and mis when you can find an open Quick Charge available at the dealer to supplement your trickle charge over night. The car is completely meeting my expectations, my advice watch the battery level not the milage indicator, it is a better indicator of live left since my route is very consistent. I am beging to be able to use the milage indicator as I get used to seeing the fluctuations more regularly.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Paul – Welcome to Living LEAF. And thank you for your contribution. It is feedback like yours that makes this site more valuable to those considering the purchase of a LEAF.

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Paul Behan September 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I’d like to know why the level 2 chargers are so expensive compared to the trickle charger. It seems like there shoud be a level 2 charger similar in size or maybe twice the size as the Leaf trickle charger for a lot less. It appears the walmounted units are a lot of show without a lot of extra value and there should be a portable level 2 charger like the trickle charger. This would really make a difference for convenient charging and encourage people to make the jump to electric.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) September 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Paul – The level 2 units are fairly costly. We wrote earlier this year about the relatively inexpensive Bosch unit (found here). There is also an outfit in California that can upgrade your existing trickle charge unit to operate on 208-240 volts called evseupgrade.com. We are not endorsing either of these units, but have heard no negative reports, and many positive ones of the evseupgrade route. The upgraded unit can be used with either 120- or 240-volt outlets with the proper adapter cords. Be advised that if you are leasing your LEAF, you may not be able to return the modified EVSE at lease end (though it provides added value). I guess you could check with your leasing dealership and see what they have to say.

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Meika August 9, 2014 at 9:57 pm

I am just researching the Nissan LEAF as a possible purchase. I have currently moved to Sourthern California for career and school. I am a young professional staying with family at the time, but will be pursuing a career as a Science High school teacher. I currently travel from Corona, CA to surrounding Orange County cities as a music instructor. I believe on average I am driving about 25-28 miles each way. I am aware that there are Chargingstations located at various locations within Orange County and Corona/Riverside. My concern is as I move out of my families home… will the LEAF be realistic for an apartment or condo dweller as myself. As a young professional, I enjoy living outside of the busy LA streets by staying in surrounding suburban areas with the access to drive in and out 20 max miles. I am hoping to just get some advice and encouragement to look into purchasing a LEAF or a clear better luck next time…

Thanks

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Ernie Hernandez August 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hi Meika,

Welcome to Living LEAF. You have realized the most significant hurdle of LEAF ownership – you must have a convenient place to perform your daily charge routine. With a home, one can install a 240-volt outlet, upgrade the standard 120-volt EVSE, and you’re ready to go. With an apartment or condo, it may not be quite so easy. But also it might – depending upon where you choose to live. Here is a link to an article about finding apartment communities with EV capabilities (found here). I suggest that you just do a search using these terms: “southern california apartments with electric car charging” and “southern california condos with electric car charging”. The first search took me to the article that I linked to. I found two apartment complexes (one in Aliso Viejo and one in Foothill Ranch – Google “Sequoia Equities apartments”). I would also suggest that while providing your services as a music instructor that you ask if you can plug in via 120-volt while at your student’s home. This might spark a discussion of electric cars and introduce more people to the idea of using them. Also, you might get to add a few miles while you’re instructing! Good luck – I think with some research that you will find that the LEAF might work for you. You also prompted me to write my own article about individuals in exactly your situation. Thanks!

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Brian Deckebach December 4, 2014 at 6:54 am

Hello, Good info here. I just leased a 2015 Leaf. I like the car very much. Very fun/fast get-around-town car. I’m not joining this site to complain about the range. If you bought one and your daily commute pushes the limits, you’ll be frustrated. If you don’t need to push its limits, you’ll love it. I live in the middle of Denver, work from home, and part-time close by. Its an urban/suburban vehicle. I still have my “79 Mercedes diesel wagon, which I got 12 years ago, to do the bio-diesel thing. I make my own in my garage, so I’m comfortable with having an unconventional ride. Wish I could go out and buy a new diesel-hybrid, alas they don’t exist. Talk about frustration! Range (battery capacity) is only one side of the issue. More charging stations will help mitigate the range issue. Hopefully they’re coming. The ’15 Leaf has a big quick charge input that goes directly to the battery. I was told this is the Tesla style input. Not sure if thats true. I want to know if I can get to Silverthorne from Denver and quick charge there. I saw a post where someone made the trip in a 2011 Leaf (barely). The ’15 has a smaller engine and different drive ratio for better range than the earlier Leafs. Hopefully thats just enough to get it over the continental divide…

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Ernie Hernandez December 4, 2014 at 7:17 am

Hi Brian – Welcome to Living LEAF. I’m glad that you like your LEAF. As you’ve already discovered, it’s a fun car to drive.

Regarding your questions, Tesla uses a proprietary connection and the amperage is also higher than what the LEAF can handle, so you can’t use a Tesla supercharger station. You can make it to Silverthorne and back, but it will take longer. There are 240-volt stations at Genesee Park, Idaho Springs, Lawson, and just west of Silverthorne. I’ve found the best site for locating charge stations is plugshare.com. Currently it is not showing any LEAF compatible DC quick charge stations on that route yet. You can use the “More Options” link under the legend box in the top right of the map to filter out Tesla Superchargers and SAE combo stations. Hope that helps, and enjoy your LEAF!

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Brian Deckebach December 4, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Thanks Ernie. I’ve been reading more about the quick charge battle going on out there. Teslas going to do their thing and thats that. They just put 5B$ into a top secret battery factory. They got something cooking that requires (or works best with) the charging system their installing all over. I’m sure they’re going to win the battery war, someday. Sounds like Nissan is pushing ahead with their quick charge infrastructure, while others are taking a ‘wait and see’ stance. Looks like US makers will follow the Nissan DC system. Good to know Nissan is taking action in a serious way. Funny thing is, by Nissans own surveys, most owners plug in at night and drive during the day and never use even the 240vlt stations that much. They need the quick charge stations to sell the cars to potential customers with “range anxiety”, even though most will rarely use them for routine driving. That said, I’m all for them. Someday they’ll have a lot of miles covered and range issue will get smaller and smaller.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Robin, the whole idea behind this blog is to help our readers to decide if a LEAF (or any EV for that matter) is right for them. Many readers have contributed to the discussion through these comments, and I think that these comments have also been beneficial to our readers. Thanks for following us. If you would like to learn about something in the EV world that we’re not covering, let me know and I’ll try to research the topic and include it in future posts.

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