Nissan looks to reduce range anxiety

by Ernie Hernandez on July 7, 2012

LEAF center stack

Smartphone and website apps to provide needed info

Nissan has introduced two services to its Japan-based LEAF owners (for now) to more accurately determine the range remaining in ones LEAF. One app provides a prediction of what battery capacity will be once you have reached your destination. The other uses the database of LEAF owners that have made similar trips to the one that you are about to take. Let’s take a closer look at each.

As has been reported far and wide, the current range remaining indicator is nowhere close to being accurate. Our thought on this is that Nissan should never have put large numbers on the dash proclaiming what your remaining range is in the first place. Nobody that we know drives a gasoline powered vehicle with a large Distance Til Empty display prominently located on the instrument cluster. While the information is often available via the vehicle trip computer, most drivers rely on the gas gauge to give them an indication of remaining fuel. Nissan should have (and who knows – may in the future) left well enough alone and provided the 12 bar (or 24 bar as some have expressed a desire for) battery capacity gauge. A glance at the gauge will provide your current battery capacity status. This new app tries to create a more accurate range remaining indicator based on such factors as elevation changes, air conditioning usage, and route taken – provided that you use the navigation system every time you get behind the wheel – or in this case, plot your trip on the app prior to making it. It also needs to know where you are going obviously.

This new applications’ sole purpose is to look at the destination which you have provided, and it will tell you how much juice you will have left when you get there based on the afore mentioned inputs. The problem we have with this is that we could put ten people in ten different identical gasoline powered cars, send them all to the same place, and they will all likely use different amounts of fuel. The same is true of the electric car. Any electric car. What the masses want is to know the unknowable. Sadly, the only correct answer here is – it depends. It depends on your driving style. It depends on other traffic. It depends on the load that you have in the vehicle. So let’s take a look at the other app which we think will prove to be more beneficial.

The key to this second app is that it is a database of real world LEAF owners just driving their cars to work, to school, to the grocery store – you get the idea. And the important part is that the database tells you the maximum and minimum amount of juice used by said drivers making that drive. Now, hopefully, you see the value in hitting that Accept button every time it pops up on the navigation screen. You are adding your usage information into this ever-growing database. Currently the database only covers vehicles sold in Japan and North America. As of June 2012 28,000 LEAF owners have contributed data to the system. This app could be a useful tool, even more so as more LEAFs enter their data into the system.

Let’s say that we want to drive from San Diego to Julian. If other LEAF owners have made that trip, the database will let us know the maximum and minimum amount of electricity used. Perhaps no single LEAF has made the entire trip, but some have made portions of the trip. We would think that the database could then sythesize your route and provide a reasonable prediction. So if you are wondering what the difference is between the second app and the first, let us be very clear. The first app discussed is a forecast. It is based on possibilities. The second app is real world information based on past performance of others that have already driven that route. While it will provide a range of possible battery capacities at your destination, it will be based on history rather than prognostication.

Neither of these apps are yet available in the United States, but Nissan says that they are both under development for the US and European markets having just been introduced in Japan. We feel that the database app will easily be one of the most used apps by LEAF owners everywhere – especially those that have a desire to range further from home and still be confident of their return trip. Which of these two apps do you think would prove most useful to you in your everyday usage of the LEAF?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil Bettenhausen July 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

I think this feature has real potential benefits. I would prefer the data from actual trips. Obviously, alost anything w2ould be an improvement over what we have now.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Neil – I couldn’t agree more.

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