The number one question that we get when we start talking about our LEAF is this – “Doesn’t it go just 100 miles?” To which our standard answer is some variation of this – “And we should be concerned about that why?” We rarely drive more than 20 to 40 miles during a routine day. Occasionally on a weekend day we might cover more territory when doing a lot of running around. But for the most part, we drive the way the majority of Americans drive according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Most people, on average, drive less than 40 miles per day. The linked quick facts above come from an older version of the BTS reports, but the most recent report has similar results.
The second most asked question that we get is “What do you do when you run out of juice?” We answer honestly – “We don’t know. We never have.”
It really doesn’t take that much effort to keep from getting stranded. It’s just that most drivers are not used to the idea of actually thinking about where they are going, and planning accordingly. For instance, when we first got our LEAF, we wouldn’t even plug it in every night. We didn’t need to. But then when Southern California had the entire electrical grid knocked out last September, we rethought our routine. Since then, we plug in every night. That is one way to make sure that you never get stranded – plug your car in every night. It takes all of 30 seconds or so.
A fully charged LEAF will show 12 bars on the dash in the “Range remaining” area.
This example shows 10 bars, or 80%, out of a total of 12 bars which would be fully charged. It also indicates 93 miles. The key to never getting stranded is to ignore the number of miles indicated and count the number of bars remaining. We have heard of LEAF owners that have calculated that if you average XX speed, you can expect to get a certain range, but if you average YY speed, then this is your expected range. We have absolutely no idea how fast our average speed is. If we wanted to we could reset the trip computer each time we drove the car and it would calculate it for us, but why bother? Just count how many bars you have left. Multiply the number of bars times six. That is a very conservative indication of your remaining range. If you are a belt-with-suspenders type, multiply each bar times five. So, for example, if you have 5 bars left you can travel 30 more miles (or 25 conservatively).
“But wait!”, I hear you crying. That only comes out to 72 miles for a 100% charge, or even less (60 miles) if we take the belt-with-suspenders approach. I thought the LEAF could go 100 miles? That’s true – if you drive according to the LA4 test cycle with an average speed of under 20 miles per hour. Most people have no intention of changing their driving style when they buy a LEAF. Nor should they. Also, keep in mind the intent of this post is to prevent you from being stranded. It is quite possible that you may drive significantly further than this. Which is why we are adding the following to our original thoughts.
If you wish to refine this method, it’s pretty simple, but it will take some effort on your part. Put a notebook in your LEAF. Every morning write down your odometer reading and how many bars are displayed on your dash. Every evening when done driving for the day, write down your odometer reading and how many bars are displayed. Drive as you normally do and drive to the places that you normally go. Do this for 30 days. At the end of 30 days (or each day if you wish) divide the miles driven by the number of bars used. Voila! Your own personal record of how many miles you average for every bar displayed. Should you charge your car during the day, you will need to record each charging session independently.
If you use our quick and easy guide, you will likely never find yourself stranded in your Nissan LEAF.