• Oct 30, 2010
2011 Nissan Leaf - Click above for high-res image gallery

Initially, Nissan quoted the Leaf's estimated range at an even 100 miles. From the beginning, we knew that this number was more or less an average of what the car could travel between charges and not a figure that was set in stone for all drivers on any given day. Recently, the automaker laid out some variable range estimates that took weather variations, speed, HVAC settings and more into account. These showed that the Leaf's operating range could drop as low as 47 miles and top out at 138 miles under ideal circumstances.

Real-world results are usually a better indicator than drawn-up estimates, however, and Plugin Cars writer Nick Chambers was recently given the chance to conduct a total range test of the battery-powered Leaf. Chambers plotted a course from Nissan North America's headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee to the famous Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg. The 116.1-mile drive took Chambers across country roads, through small towns flooded with stoplights and onto local byways. Chambers claims that he didn't drive aggressively and often stayed below posted speeds, but did not baby the Leaf "like an obsessed hypermiler" might have.

In the end, the Leaf made the trip; that's 116.1 miles traveled under real-world conditions. The range-testing run utilized around 22.76 kW of the Leaf's total 24 kWh battery, indicating that it was pushed to the limits. Surprisingly, Chambers claims to have called upon the cool air of the range-depleting A/C system for much of the journey. He also engaged the Leaf's range-boosting Eco-mode before starting his jaunt, giving us a decent prediction for what a green-footed driver can expect.

Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

[Source: Plugin Cars]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      That 116 miles is 7 days, round-trip, commuting to work to me. I'd likely charge it once per week @ 6.38 cents per kWh.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What I want to see is how far it will go in the dead of winter under normal driving with the heater full blast.

      No one really wants to show these numbers. It is something that those of us who have to deal with the cold need to know.

      While they have improved some on the electric car it still needs a better battery before it can really go maintream with the general public.

      One day they will break through with a better battery but till then cars like this will have a limited appeal with the general public.

      At least with the Volt and Leaf there is now a market created that it will drive for companies to make these improved batteries.

      I think Nissan even understands this with the offer of a loaner car if you really need to go anywhere very far away.

      • 3 Years Ago
      Real-world conditions? After one month of using this car, when driving on highway at 70 mph I only can get 40-50 miles range on the ECO mode and w/o the air-condition. I wish I could return this car but I am stuck. Yes, you can drive some outside the city but you cannot return w/o a towing truck. Do not buy this car. This is an expensive piece of junk.
        • 2 Years Ago
        The LEAF is really not designed to be used at 70 Mph! It is meant to be a city commuter and not much more. I average about 100-120 Miles of in city driving consistently and even the winter months of -36 here I get 60-70 miles with fairly decent heat. I would say that you just didn't do your due diligence as a potential customer and should have done some more homework. The car isn't a piece of junk, its just not the right car for you... There are a lot of people that actually READ the posts from NISSAN and it even gives you 5 real world examples of ranges and which one is best suited to you and your driving needs. If you thought that you were going to get over 100 Miles of range at 70 MPH, that would be just silly and I feel bad for you. You really shouldn't bash the car because you made the mistake. I commute to work 5 days a week on ONE charge.
        Bob Smith
        • 1 Year Ago
        Where do you live? I'm in the market for a Leaf.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "2011 Nissan Leaf real-world range test covers 116.1 miles"

      Then you have it towed home 116.1 miles.

      I get towed the first 3 miles for free, then $4 per mile thereafter.
      So after that trip i'd be 452 bucks in the hole.

        • 4 Years Ago
        That was a round-trip. However, he did say that the last 10 miles were a "little tense."

        It does illustrate the difference between the Leaf and the Volt.
        • 4 Years Ago
        towed? in the market nissan's releasing the car? I'm confused. Last i drove the leaf a dozen charging stations popped up in the neighborhood I was in and I know there's already dozens and dozens between sd and la.

        In markets where you CANNOT purchase the car? I guess.. but it doesn't take a whole lot of thinking to figure out that's why nissan's releasing it in markets where infrastructure is already there and expanding at a rapid pace.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @jcar302 - gotcha, you're not in the demographic of people to buy the car, awesome, me neither, but that doesn't negate the fact that there ARE people who want to buy this car as a city runabout, and that most americans would never exceed the car's range in a day.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just because you have a changing station halfway to your destination doesn't mean you really want to take it 200 miles. What if you get to that charger and there's 3 dead Leafs (Leaves?) there?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Roadside assistance to a charging location is included.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why bother, 116 miles??? The gas powered or better yet, a diesel anything is better than this alternive to walking. Looks like the IC engine is here to stay,at least for me. I like'em.
      • 2 Years Ago
      those with solar on the roof and a small commute will be super heros! and should be rewarded by mega incentives besides the utmost of all....just really doing more saving our earth
      • 4 Years Ago
      Energy increases to the square of the speed. So does air resistance. So there is a big difference in energy required between 55, what he drove, and 65, what most people do. For a 20% increase in speed, from 55 to 66 mph, your energy consumption will increase far more than 20% so your range will decrease by much more than 20%. Real world speeds would produce more like 80 miles range.

      In order for 80 miles round trip to be sufficient, 40 miles each way, you'd have to travel much less, perhaps 30 miles, than that in order to have a safety net, both for the car, and for your nerves. Who wants to be on pins and needles - in a new car? When I left school in '87, I had a '74 Renault 12 TL. That's pins and needles. But I got it for $500. So the real world radius of travel of this Leaf is basically 30 miles.
      • 4 Years Ago
      While yes over 100 miles is great I'm curious as to how well it will hold up to a extended trip that is just shy over 100 miles. And by that I mean a day trip if you will 75% highway 25% city back and forth. That will be the real test and standard I'm sure most will hold the Leaf to.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think it's that worst case scenario MPG that will scare the majority away, unfortunately.
      But, they're doing what nobody else has so far: offering an capable electric car at a reasonable price. It can only get better from here!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Why? The majority drive under 50 miles a day, why would a minimum range on par with daily use for the majority cause them to shy away from this as a second or third car with daily driving being the only concern?
      • 4 Years Ago
      most impressive nissan.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Indeed. Nissan shows us that a fully-charged Leaf with a brand-new, undegraded pack can be driven by a hypermilier over 100 miles.

        Too bad that even an experienced hypermiler will experience "range anxiety" at the end of such a long trip. He plays it down, but when he says he changed his strategy of driving 5 mph below posted limits to driving 10 mph below posted limits, that's "range anxiety" right there.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And let's also remember that running a lithium ion down 90% as Mr. Chambers did is a big negative for long-term battery life.

        He wanted to like this car, and he did. Surprise.

        I'm curious to see if Mr. Chambers likes the Volt, spawn of big bad GM.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yup, it's pretty impressive. Considering GM says like 80% won't go over the range for a Volt, there's going to be a huge base that would benefit from the Leaf as a second car for their daily commute.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nah, actually the most impressive Nissan is Godzilla.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not bad, considering he didn't hypermile. That said, the battery is new, and moreso, reflects on one major aspect for the Leaf ...

      DON'T USE IT FOR ROAD TRIPS! 116 miles effectively means 58 miles from home, because you'll still have a return trip.

      Folks need to understand that this isn't a "one car does it all" vehicle. It's like folks ranting about others choosing to buy a full-size pickup instead of a hybrid ... yeah, try towing 6,000 lbs or haul a bunch of building materials in a hybrid. It just doesn't work.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Except, he *did* hypermile. He was driving below posted limits to minimize aerodynamic drag losses. That's a hypermiling technique.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Folks need to understand that this isn't a "one car does it all" vehicle."

        Everyone implicitly understands that, we're all car people here, but some like sticking their heads in the sand. the only people I've met who are signed up to purchase the leaf and use it as their one and only car... don't have a car right now. I'm certain the super majority of leaf owners will have a leaf in addition to a conventional petrol vehicle. Thus all this range grumbling is moot for the demographic who are actually going to buy the car.

        The volt vs leaf argument is likewise moot. The volt's for someone who wants A car which is better than a hybrid in terms of electric driving and mpg. The leaf's for someone who wants a SECOND car that doesn't consume fossil fuel.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sorry but 116.1 mile range doesn't really work for me.

      Nice first step though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In the city like here in LA, the car gets a further distance due to the stop and go regeneration and taking off the gas to coast to a light. It can be charged around town to 80% capacity in a half an hour. Most daily driving is less than what the cars range is. The car has great tax breaks a.d your utility will meter this seperately for reduced rates. The car communicates to your smart phone to always keep you up to date of qhat its doing. They have a website that can plot your daily trips to tell you where you can charge during the daily commute. Charging info is also on the cars Gps that is standard. Roadside assistance is available for free if you ignore the cars alerts and it runs out of power.

        I am a fan of gas power, but after some seat time in the leaf, it is an amazing car with a lot of get up and go and intelligently thought out features. If anyone hasn't had seat time in one, feel free to ask me any questions. But I do not work for Nissan or in the auto industry so I will try to answer you as my time permits.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just buy a used motorcycle and a used sports car. You can drive the sports car when it rains or gets too cold, as well as on trips, dates, special occasions, etc, and then ride the motorcycle for most of your around town trips, commute, etc. You'll have way more fun, look like a badass, and still spend way less on gas than your neighbors and friend.
        • 4 Years Ago
        From a numbers POV, I'd like to know what his average speed was.

        If you MapQuest his route:
        3 miles on TN-102
        11 miles on Interstate I-24
        23 miles on TN-24
        some stoplights in Shelbyville (regen braking),
        13 miles on TN-82
        2 miles on TN-55

        40 miles on low traffic TN-xx state roads, 11 miles on Interstate highway, probably 3 miles city driving.

        Excellent route!

        As-driven, he was probably running 35-40 mph on the state roads, but no more than 50 mph on the Interstate, and eventually, as slow as 45 mph on the Interstate..

        I would not be surprised at all to see his average speed to be very close the optimal 38 mph average that Nissan stated for a maximum 138-mile range, and the only real losses being running the AC to keep the windows closed for minimum air drag.

        For reference, a *normal* driver runs 5-10 mph over the posted limit, for average speed over 50 mph, not hypermiling under 40 mph, so the likely range would be closer to 50-60 miles, not 110-120 that the tester squeezed out of it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        quote from ericdj: - "It can be charged around town to 80% capacity in a half an hour." -

        Not too many places just yet. Or have tons of public Level 3 charging stations suddenly popped up around L.A.? I'm honestly asking because I don't know, but I suspect there aren't many, if any there currently.

        Not long ago, AB had a story up about the nation's first public quick charge station opening up in a garage in Portland, Oregon.

        This ABG story does mention that more will show up at BP/Arco station starting next Spring. 45 of them in TN and along the West Coast.

        It's a good first step if nothing else, but far from enough to make an EV a viable choice for many people(especially those who don't live in a huge urban area).
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