Battery range? There's plenty of that The Nissan Leaf’s perceived lack of range is just that. It just needs a little loving.
When I reviewed the Nissan Leaf last year, I said at that time that I felt it was the future of commuter cars. Despite not having a gas generator like the Chevrolet Volt, there was something pure about the Nissan Leaf that appealed to me. It wasn’t a car that compromised, it was purely electric and that’s what it did well.
Fast forward to the 2014 Nissan Leaf SL. Unlike last year’s tester, this one was fitted with leather seats and some rather nice interior appointments. This is definitely the model to get. Rather than feel like you’re trying to save a few bucks by going electric, this Nissan Leaf just doesn’t compromise on quality and feels fantastic all over. Plus, little bonuses like Ontario’s “Green” license plates mean commuting is made a breeze. For those who don’t know, qualifying electric vehicles are assigned these plates which allow single-passenger use of the HOV lanes on the 400-series highways. Plus, this one is now eligible for a rebate of $8,500 from the federal government.
The accompanying iOS app for the iPhone helps automate various tasks, like automatically starting the climate control, checking status of your vehicle charge, disabling and enabling the charge, etc. It also gives out rough estimates as it relates to charge time. Unfortunately, the app itself is very slow and lacks some user interface refinements. Also, it doesn’t work on the latest iOS 7, so the car came with an iPhone 4 with the app preloaded.
One interesting story; I was faced with a 45 km drive from Hamilton to Mississauga, ON. The range listed said 60 km. Given the unknown factors of an electric car: battery temperature, elevation, highway vs. city driving, I didn’t know how much I could trust the computer read out.
I promptly pressed the Zero Emission button, which gives you a GPS breakdown of your vehicle range and shows some charge stations along the way (Nissan dealerships, such as Oakville Nissan, are programmed in as well).
I set off, knowing this would be a one-way drive. I stayed on Dundas Street rather than jumping on the highway. The Queen Elizabeth Way these days is a great unknown. I couldn’t risk having to sit in traffic and potentially getting stranded. Plus, the electric range seems to drop by the second when doing highway speeds..
Dundas Street presents its own problem – Traffic lights. The constant speeding up and slowing down might reduce my range. I stuck the Leaf into “ECO” mode, which helps moderate the throttle to maintain maximum range. Only in select situations would I use that switch like a Nitrous button, giving me a little boost for a second or two to get up to proper speed. This modulation worked fantastically well, a method I replicated in the Infiniti M35 Hybrid only a week later.
At the end of my drive, I had 41 km left on my range, a full doubling of what would have been the ideal setting. It was then that I checked my average power consumption for the week. It turns out I averaged 8.4 km per kWh. With the Leaf holding a 24 kW battery, my estimated range breaks down to just a notch above 200 km per charge – significantly higher than the 165 km range listed upon entering the vehicle.
It makes sense though; Nissan needs to have a base range covering a variety of weather conditions. This being fall and not having the need to run air conditioning, with the windows just open a crack, I improved Nissan’s rated distance by more than 20%. My tester Leaf only came with the rather long 110v charger. Despite having a 240v outlet in my garage, simply trickle charging the Leaf battery would take in excess of 17 hours. Not a short amount of time by any stretch of the imagination.
This is the first time I’ve been intrigued by a car, wanting to tackle the challenge of maximizing the overall range through all four seasons we face in Canada. All I know is the Leaf is capable of so much, presently and in the future. It’s a car that oozes potential and for that, I’ll always keep my eye on the latest news and reports. It’s a trailblazer.
2014 Nissan Leaf SL Gallery