nissan leaf cold weather range averagePlug-in electric vehicle drivers can potentially drive their EVs long distances under extreme weather conditions. The catch is that they have to drastically change their driver behavior.

Over the past year, FleetCarma has been collecting data from 7,375 Nissan Leaf trips and 4,043 Chevrolet Volt trips. The best that a Leaf driver was able to get was 106 miles from the lithium ion batteries in freezing conditions. A Volt driver managed 38 miles on battery only when the temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

There has been a huge gap between those top performing numbers and what drivers do more often. While the aforementioned numbers – called "best range" – make cold weather driving look manageable, the "average range" was far different: Leaf drivers in the FleetCarma study were at 64 miles at 32° F, while for the Volt it was 26 miles.

So how can EV drivers close the gap and get best range? Megan Allen, vehicle technology analyst at FleetCarma, made some pointers that Ford might agree with: "These trips could have been taken by gentle drivers taking care to utilize regenerative braking as much as possible, on clear roads. These drivers also could have seen their range extended by preheating or cooling the cabin while the vehicle was still plugged in," Allen wrote in a company blog post. To do well in freezing temperatures, drivers need to heat up their car while plugged into the grid and maybe wear thermal clothing and caps to drive without the heater turned on to get more range.

Trip data on the Volt was limited since the internal combustion engine kicks in intermittently at temperatures below 25° F. FleetCarma will have a follow-up post to discuss the Volt's overall performance under various weather conditions including logged trips in temperatures down to -13° F.

FleetCarma is based up in Waterloo, Ontario, so they're used to the cold. FleetCarma's EV monitoring system is available on a wide range of EVs sold in Canada and used by fleets. This list includes the Citroen C-Zero, Ford Transit Connect EV, Ford Fusion Energi, Navistar eStar, Opel Ampera and Renault Kangoo.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 87 Comments
      • 1 Year Ago
      It always amazes me how touchy and irrational posters get. I have the leaf and the fusion plug in hybrid. Love them both and don't see ever going back to gas only. Not because of environmental reasons or any other noble reason but because they ride really nice and are so convenient. Love rarely going to gas stations, free charging at garage I park at for work, not having to change oil or cleaning that pesky brake dust off the wheels all the time. Keep in mind the leaf is not a touring car, if you drive more than a hundred miles a day everyday I feel sorry for you, otherwise 100 miles is plenty a day for most people. It just isn't good for road trips at this point. That's why I have the fusion. I have adjusted my driving considerably but only in a good way. I don't gun it when the light turns green and I avoid hard braking as much as possible. I am more in the middle of the pack now instead of one of the first ones but still get to the next red light at the same time as I used to. Stop taking everything to extremes people. Sure, electric cars are not for everyone but unless your are an oil company or parts supplier you have no reason to bash it.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Have had my Leaf for a little over a month now. Some of the coldest temperatures so far (one morning it was -22 F.) The only car that started without a block heater those mornings. I am probably one of only a handful of Leaf drivers who uses theirs on the highway. My round trip to work and home averages 26-30 miles per day. Most of it is on a highway, but there is still the 1.5 miles on the dirt road and 4 more on a secondary with critters and farmers on it. Yes, I use the defroster and the "butt heater". Figured out it is costing me less than $2.00 to get to and from work. And in the snow--terrific. My husband has only had to plow to the secondary once for me!
      Mark Sumner
      • 1 Year Ago
      My drive to work is 32 miles door to door. In warmer weather, my Volt makes it with plenty of spare electric miles (often 10+), but I have had the gas engine kick on twice in winter as I fell just short. Fortunately, I have an outlet at work to charge up for the return trip.
      Ricardo Gozinya
      • 1 Year Ago
      Or they could get to work making a more energy efficient climate control system for EVs. As long as people have to settle for less with EVs, they'll continue to be regarded as toys, instead of real vehicles. Stop making excuses for them, it doesn't make EVs sound any more attractive to anyone when you have to go through a bunch of nonsense just to get where you have to go, nevermind ever actually having any fun with it.
        Nick Kordich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ricardo Gozinya
        ^ This kind of comment is a pet peeve mine. I have to roll my eyes every time someone proposes "they could get working" on something. Do you think that the engineers who spend their lives working on these problems don't start until someone on the Internet leaves a comment suggesting it? What we have today is the product of decades of engineering with incredible effects, but as Louis C.K. put it, "everything's amazing right now and nobody's happy." The MY2013 Leaf has a high-efficiency heater that "in cold-weather conditions you may see 20 to 25 miles of improvements." Today's article reflects the results of the very thing you suggest they "get to work making." Here's the ABG link to the original story on the Leaf's heater: http://green.autoblog.com/2012/03/20/nissan-leaf-update-will-add-new-heater-25-miles-of-range/
          Ricardo Gozinya
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          So they had to upgrade it, since they couldn't foresee this problem in the first place? Or because they were too cheap, stupid, or lazy to do it to begin with? And 25 miles of range is nothing. The heater should have the same effect on range that a heater in an ICE has, or better. 25 miles is far short of that. And considering the best EV out there, the Tesla, still doesn't have a properly efficient climate control system, the automotive industry has a long way to go. As for the incredible effects of decades of engineering, no. Just no. EVs are not miracle cars. They're not even game changers at this point. The automakers can't even build a proper drive train for them yet, still stuck with fixed gear transmissions. EVs are very likely the future, but unfortunately, they're not the present.
          Nick Kordich
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          @Ricardo Gozinya: "So they had to upgrade it, since they couldn't foresee this problem in the first place? Or because they were too cheap, stupid, or lazy to do it to begin with?" No, no, no and no, respectively. It's because it's an evolving technology, just as you suggested they "get to work on," even though automotive engineers have been doing that for over a hundred years. Let's take EVs out of the equation for a moment: Why does a new gasoline powered car get better fuel efficiency than last year's model? Is it because the engineers couldn't foresee good gas mileage was a selling point? Were they cheap, lazy or stupid? No, no, no and no. It's because they designed the car to the best of their ability, but later, on returning to a design they were able to optimize it, improving the design, update the components or their integration. They save money and weight by reducing the thickness of over-engineered structural members based on further crash tests and finite element analysis. They adjust the position of the headlights so that they disrupt a vortex that buffeted the wing mirrors. They install an alternate pollution control system that generates less back pressure and update the ECU so it better works with it and a dozen other fine-tunings that bring the car from 38MPG highway to 40MPG. It's not because the ICE is so efficient, but because the core technology is so mature it requires most improvements to come from optimizing other aspects of the system. An increase in cold weather range from, say, 75 to 100 miles is an improvement of range/efficiency by 33% without even touching the battery technology. If you think that's nothing...I give up. I can't convey the importance and potential of the evolution of (electric drive) automotive technology better than that example. "The automakers can't even build a proper drive train for them yet, still stuck with fixed gear transmissions." My father had the transmission replaced an average of twice per vehicle in his previous three cars. You think a slushbox or belt-driven CVT in the majority of automatic transmissions is a good thing? That's it, I really do give up.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          @ Nick Kordich , ROFL ! Your first paragraph is just brilliant !
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't know where he got his Volt number. I have had a volt for the last year and put 20,000 miles on it. In Southwest Florida summer we get 40-41 miles per charge and in the Florida Winter up to 47 per charge. Of course if you run the electric heater it will drop to 40 max, but here we don't need it.
        Bryan Citrowkse
        • 1 Year Ago
        Sh!t "Florida Winter" I have a Leaf in MN and there is no way I can go with out the Heater in the winter. Even with wearing long Jon's hat gloves and coat I still have to cycle the heater to keep the windows from fogging up too bad. I have a Hilly 15 mile hiway commute to work and at -5° if i couldnt charge at work to 80% i wouldnt make it home. If i was dressed in my snowmobiling gear and only used the steering wheel heater with the windows down to keep the windshield clear i could maybe do 60 miles on clear roads under 40mph at freezing temps.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bryan Citrowkse
          so much for living in an "inhospitable" extreme climate, where sub-freezing weather is normal for large parts of the year / in many ways like going to an icy hell. I still cant figure out why people intentionally live in freezing or super hot inhospitable regions/ as doing so seems energetically and thus fiscally unaccountable.
        A A
        • 1 Year Ago
        "Florida Winter"
      RONALDH
      • 1 Year Ago
      WOW----A WHOLE HUNDRED MILES! HOW LONG IS THE RECHARGE TIME. THIS WOULD MAKE A ONE DAY TRIP TO THE CITY FOR ME, INTO A 3 DAY ADVENTURE WITH 2 NIGHTS OF MOTELS.
        Sasparilla Fizz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RONALDH
        Well, I think with the Volt it just runs on gasoline when you finish off the juice in the battery, so it'd be no different for you from your current car - other than the electric gasoline costs ~$1.25 a gallon and not a cent of that money goes to our friends in the Middle East and stuff like that...
      JVP
      • 1 Year Ago
      What I took away from this article is that the Leaf is only for people willing to suffer. Or live in California. Ugh. THIS is why we need more range. Most people, including me, DO want electric cars, but DON'T want to suffer or worry. We're getting there, and I predict when the leaf has 110 miles of rated range is when it'll be a desirable car for more people. We're getting there, but encouraging people to suffer when driving is only going to hurt the image of electric cars.
        Ziv
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JVP
        I have a Volt and it isn't the heating that drains the battery and reduces the range, it is simply that cold weather makes my battery less efficient. When the temps are in the 20's, it doesn't matter if I bundle up and drive with just the fan to keep the windows clear or if I drive with heat on Eco 4, my range takes a big hit either way. I usually set the heat for Eco 2 or 3 and just accept the fact that my all electric range will drop from my regular 44 miles down to around 28 to 30 miles. And if it is really cold, it will drop to 25-26 miles and using the heat only makes it a bit worse. Batteries just don't handle cold weather very well, and using lights, wipers or heat makes it slightly worse.
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ziv
          "cold weather makes my battery less efficient" In a thermal conditioned battery, the effect on the battery in terms of cold weather should be minimal (as the BMS controls the temperature), mainly driven by the overhead losses of running that thermal system (even if you don't have heat in the cabin, there's heat to the batteries). That's why if you preheat the battery beforehand when plugged in (I know the Model S can do that, don't know about the Volt), the effect on range isn't as significant. Plus pretty much everyone here neglected the fact that all cars get worse efficiency in cold weather because of denser air increasing air resistance and drop in tire pressure plus worse road conditions increasing rolling resistance.
        danfred311
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JVP
        You mistook speculation for fact. You have to look with better eyes than that. Generally heating doesn't reduce range much and I doubt people drive without heat. That would be broder level stupid if they do in general Fast charge fixes range concerns.
        VFan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JVP
        In response to Danfred311's speculation, observations from driving my Volt include heat is second only to driving up steep hills as far as draining the battery. It's a problem that needs a better solution. For my situation, I agree that a rating of 110 miles is the range threshold where an EV works my family.
      Janos
      • 1 Year Ago
      It looks as if electric vehicles need much better thermal insulation (including windows), both for occupants and batteries, than present vehicles. Comments posted here by BEV drivers indicate significant winter range loss. It seems as if the serial hybrids have an advantage, with the genset not only maintaining range but also providing heat.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Janos
        But to provide heat, you must waste a bunch of gasoline to get it. The electric drive train doesn't have 60-80% thermal inefficiency in it, hence you have to use battery power to 'waste' electricity and create heat. That is completely normal. But better, because you don't waste that energy all year 'round like gasoline vehicle does. Insulation wouldn't have too much of an effect. The issue with a car driving in winter is that you have cold air pushing against it; you're just going to have to counteract that with something or other. The better the battery, the more the range, the less this will be a problem.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Janos
        The problem with that idea is now you are increasing the cost.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ever since they started talking about electric cars, I've been wondering how you keep warm in one in the winter. It's just as I suspected - you can't.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Yes you can, your range just suffers. If an ICE was no so ridiculously inefficient heat would cost you range too, but since it has so much waste heat, heat is free. I don't mind giving up 10 miles of range for heat since 50 miles of range is still fine for 99.9% of daily driving.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The same way you kept warm in a 1970's VW- lots of coats and blankets.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        Incorrect. It could actually be much warmer much faster in any EV, there's just a battery penalty that you have to take. Here's the thing about the gasoline engine in your car. It wastes 60-80% of the power that you put into it. A tiny portion of this heat is redirected through the heater core which is how your car gets heated. An electric car's drivetrain, all in all, wastes about 10-15% of it's energy as heat. It's just not enough to warm the cabin, since some of that heat gets wicked off the car by the cold air passing by/through the engine compartment. So you have to waste a good percentage of your battery power to create heat. And that sucks when we still have low density batteries. But as battery density improves, this will be less and less of a problem over time. When you have a car with a 300-500 mile range, losing 50-100 miles of your range to create heat will be totally passable.
        • 1 Year Ago
        All vehicles work better in "Less Harsh" climates. People have a very narrow range of environmental temperatures that the body can handle. Clothing technology extended our range into cold regions. Fire breathing ICE vehicles have a lot of waste energy *(heat) to make use of in the winter because the piston engines are horrendously inefficient and waste most of the gasoline potential chemical energy as hot exhaust gas blown out the tail pipe in a smog forming cloud of petrochemical residues that cause a myriad of human health problems.
      Janos
      • 1 Year Ago
      32 degrees barely qualifies as cold weather driving. What this article really indicates is that an all-electric vehicle at the present stage of development is really a warm climate one.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Pre-heating or precooling the cabin while plugged into Level 2 makes all the difference. Preconditioning the cabin using grid power also makes the electric vehicle more pleasurable to use.
        LEAFOwner2704
        • 1 Year Ago
        How are you setting your preheat option? The owners manual is confusing and without the Carwings feature it sounds like you need to get in the car and configure it when ever you need it in the S model. Could you please explain the setup steps?
        • 1 Year Ago
        So, when away from home, who pays for you to recharge? Everyone else?
          LEAFOwner2704
          • 1 Year Ago
          NO, you still pay at most charging centers about $1.00 per hour of charging time. Many of the QC centers you can recharge in about 30 min from empty. Most EV's are designed for city driving and short commutes where you are able to travel into work and back to home on a single charge. With the exception of the Tesla that can get up to 230 miles on a single charge, LEAF drivers can drive about 60-70 miles on a single 80% charge. Granted there are a lot of FREE charging stations around and the people who pay for those are either the business owners or are subsidized by Electric Initiative programs.
      • 1 Year Ago
      So if you try to drive anywhere in below zero weather you will rapidly drain your battery just keeping your windows from freezing over.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Not if you precondition the cabin, and use the HVAC just enough to keep the windows clear / i.e. utilizing the HVAC system intelligently ~
        LEAFOwner2704
        • 1 Year Ago
        You'd be surprised as to how efficiently the car stays warm in the cold weather, With using the seat warmers and steering wheel heater along with the heating system set to 68-72 degrees the cabin temperature is fine, the same temperature you would have in your home. I personally keep the heat in my home in the winter at 63-65, to some this sounds cold, but it is quite comfortable. I don't like running the heat as it tends to dry the air too much, the same thing goes for my LEAF. I use the heater just long enough to take the chill out of the car and to keep the windows clear. As for battery drain, running the heater at 90 degrees (highest setting) with the fans blasting at full throttle it will use more than 60% more energy than setting the heater temp at 72 and running the fans at a setting of 2 (scale of 1-5). Your care is not meant to be a sauna. There are several factors to help with cold cabin, park your car inside an insulated garage at night, preheat the car in the morning while still connected to your home EVSE charger and use AC rather than your battery. Use the seat warmers and wheel heater.
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