Leaf EV's 'real-world' range test

Nissan’s Leaf will become the world’s first volume electric drive vehicle when it goes on sale next year. Just how far can you drive one though?
Nissan’s Leaf will become the world’s first volume electric drive vehicle when it goes on sale next year. Just how far can you drive one though?
Anybody who has used lithium-powered cameras, laptops or cellphones will know how claimed battery life can vary in field conditions, where temperature extremes can cut usability by as much as half.

With the era of the electric vehicles (EVs) now seemingly upon us, Nissan has released one of the most comprehensive data sets yet regarding the real-world range of its pending Leaf EV. Nissan has already taken 13 000 orders for its Leaf (due to go on sale in Europe next year), and claims an average range of 160km per charge as gauged by the EPA’s LA4 (urban) test cycle.

Now, after an exhaustive testing schedule, Nissan has released tabulated figures that indicate how radically EV range can vary depending on ambient temperature and driver input demands. At best, Nissan’s Leaf achieved range endurance of between 222- and 75km – depending on operating conditions.

Too hot or cold and you're only going to the mall and back

Running at a constant speed, without air conditioning to modulate cabin temperature discrepancies, found the Leaf (unsurprisingly) returning its best results. Cruising at 60km/h on a mild 20 degree Celsius day, the Leaf achieved its most generous range of 222km. Increasing the cruising speed to 88km/h and dialling in air conditioning to cope with 35 degree Celsius ambient temperatures saw the Leaf run flat in only 112km.

Don’t think only heat truncates the range, though. Extremes at either end of the temperature scale tax the lithium-ion battery severely. The Leaf could only manage 100km on a single charge travelling at 24km/h (in heavy traffic) on a 10 degree Celsius day with the in-car heater operating at maximum thermodynamic efficiency.

Nissan’s worst range achieved with the Leaf during its real-world tests was a scant 75km, crawling along in severe traffic at 10km/h, with the air conditioning employed at full power, on a 30 degree Celsius day.

South Africans will probably be most interested in the 112km range accomplished on a sweltering 35 degree Celsius test day, when Nissan personnel went cruising with a Leaf at a constant 112km/h. Air-conditioning was not employed for this flowing highway test run.

The Leaf is powered by an a synchronous electric motor producing 80kW and 280Nm. Charging via a 200V connection, the Leaf is able to replenish 80% of its battery capacity within 30 minutes.

Honesty is the best policy

So, if you’re one of the 13 000 individuals keen on a significant government rebate and emissions tax incentive you now know Leaf’s claimed 160km single charge range is contingent on a very specific set of operating circumstances. On a mild day, without the air conditioning actuated and cruising freely at around 80km/h, you should be able to achieve the claimed range.

Add in any temperature extremes or severe traffic and expect the Leaf’s single charge range to be severely reduced. It’s still a great city car alternative and Nissan deserves success with the venture, especially for having the fortitude to release results that elucidate the true fate of EV vehicles operating in real-world conditions.

Just a shame the Leaf won’t be coming to South Africa any time soon.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
What's more important when you're deciding to purchase a vehicle?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
28% - 422 votes
Safety features
10% - 145 votes
39% - 583 votes
Good fuel consumption
12% - 175 votes
5% - 82 votes
Power figures
7% - 102 votes