Nissan LEAF; Your Mileage May Seriously Vary

The furor over the Chevy Volt seems to have subsided a bit, which means I can go back to picking on the other guy. I am of course referring to the Nissan Leaf, which unlike the Volt is a 100% electric car. No gas motors here. Furthermore, the Leaf is about $7000 less than the Volt, in part because unlike a hybrid there is no gasoline engine to mesh with the electric motors or drive system. Just a simple, battery-operated automobile.

As the old saying goes though, you get what you pay for. In the case of the Leaf, that means a lot less range. How much less? It all depends on how you drive.

GM has touted the Volt as a car for people who have “range anxiety”, i.e. those who don’t want their electric car to run out of juice while they are driving. The Volt boasts a total driving range of between 300 and 400 miles, including 25-50 miles of electric-only power. The Leaf, on the other hand, has been marketed as having a 100 mile all-electric range, which would cover many commuters. However, depending on how you drive and the external conditions, your range can vary…just as in any regular gas-powered car.

The reality is, depending on how you drive and external conditions, your mileage will more realistically range from 62 miles to 138 miles. The maximum range of 138 miles (which is very respectable for an electric car) is attainable only in ideal conditions on flat roads going a constant 38 mph. 38 mph? Seriously? That means it would take you over 3.5 hours to travel 138 miles…while at highway speeds (65 mph) the same trip would take just two hours.

Lets say you dare to take the car up to highway speeds of 55 mph in 95-degree weather with the air conditioning on? Well then your range plummets down to just 70 miles. If you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic in the same weather, your mileage eeks even further down to just 62 miles. If it is a nice day out and you’re just running around town, averaging 24 mph, you can get about 105 miles out of your Leaf.

I appreciate Nissan’s honesty in this matter, and for many people who can plug in at work or home, this range is still perfectly within their commute. If you’re stuck in one of those infamous California traffic jams and your battery is running low, you might have some problems. For me, the only major drawback is the speed. The Leaf does not seem very comfortable at highway speeds, and I just can’t see myself stretching a 138 mile journey out over 3.5 hours. Soon-to-be Leaf owners, I hope you are a patient bunch.

Source: Automotive News

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.