Saturday 6 April 2013

Nissan Leaf Review - Part 3: Living with a Leaf

This is an old post, preserved for reference.
The products and services mentioned within are no longer available.

I've had the Leaf for a few weeks now, and I'm starting to get the hang of working with the range. The first thing to do it seems is ignore the estimates and the quoted ranged and just see what you get from normal driving. I'm getting about 60 - 80 miles, about half of what the estimates tell me. The range of the car is estimated differently in various places, but most are over 100, so what I am getting is a little disappointing. However, it's still perfectly usable.

It's a balance, if you want a car which is nice and easy to drive, fast and responsive, you will get a lower range. If you want higher range, you need to drive in ECO mode with the aircon off and don't accelerate too often or too hard, you may be able to get into the 100 miles + range. I've been enjoying the car and getting less range, but I know if I'm getting a bit low, I can just change my driving style a little and extend the range. So you get the best of both worlds, you can have the fast, responsive, enjoyable to drive car when you want it, and drop to the economic one if and when you need to. You don't get that choice on a normal car, it's one or the other.

The range estimates on the dashboard are getting better, it is currently showing I have 100% charge and a 75 mile range (although carwings - see photo lower down - still shows a generic average of 120-149 miles).
The one piece information I've been relying on is the charge gauge. This has twelve bars, and I'm working to the following rules of thumb for these:
  • 1 bar = 5 miles of my driving on my usual roads
  • 1 bar = 10 miles at a push in ECO mode with the aircon off and driving carefully
  • 1 bar = 30 minutes to recharge from a type 2 charging post (32A rated, limited to 18A by the onboard charger)
  • 1 bar = 45 minutes to recharge from 13A standard mains socket
  • 1 bar = 2kWh = 25p (if you're at home and paying) or free at most charging posts
So from that, it works out at 5p per mile (if you're paying), and it charges at 10 miles per hour. That's what I'm getting at the moment, I'll keep an eye on those readings over the coming weeks.
The carwings website shows a percentage of charge, which I think can be a little misleading as I think it only show percentages converted from the number of bars. I've been monitoring charging and I've only ever seen it change in 7-8% jumps, as if it can only show 1/12, 2/12, 3/12 etc. It's estimate is also a generic one, and not biased by your driving style, so shows the rather optimistic range of 149 miles with the air conditioning off. The car itself, as shown above, is now showing a more realistically attainable 75 mile range, although this varies a little to frequently when you're driving. If you're in a short 30 mph zone, the range shoots up just as fast as it falls when you leave the 30 zone, so it's difficult to keep track of. Hence, I'm using the bars.

At one point, I left the car with a charge shown on carwings as 50%. The next day, without having moved the car, it was showing 42%. I initially thought it had lost 8% somewhere! However, what was seen as a jump from 50 to 42 may have been a lot less as it dropped from 6 bars (50%) to 4 bars (42%). It may have just dropped slightly, just enough to drop down to the next bar. A little misleading initially, but now I think I know how it works, less of a concern.

2022 Note: That 8% drop was probably the battery heater which kicks in when it's cold overnight. The Mark I Leaf's heater was a bit primitive, basically just a resistive wire across the high voltage battery.