Results May Vary: 2011 Nissan Leaf EV’s True Range May Vary By 40 Miles

If you’ve been following the development of the upcoming 2011 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, you’ve likely heard the automaker tout the car’s 100-mile range. Cruising 100 miles on a single charge is possible -- but that figure may vary by as much as 40 miles.

“Depending on the way you use the air conditioning and the driving mode, the [range] varies largely,” Hidetoshi Kadota, chief engineer for the Leaf program, recently told Automotive News. “This is a physical characteristic of electric vehicles.”

Admittedly, accessory loads, driving styles, and a number of other variables play a factor in determining a vehicle’s total range, but electric vehicles’ ranges tend to vary quite wildly. You can thank the Leaf’s lithium-ion batteries for that. Although the chemistry is currently considered state-of-the-art for EV power storage, their performance is altered by different climates. Both hot and cold temperatures affect the amount of energy the batteries can supply -- and, subsequently, the total range on a single charge.

Nissan suggests that drivers may see a swing of 40 percent in the Leaf’s range. Some may be able to eke out as much as 140 miles, but in other situations, that figure can drop to 60 miles. Kadota himself recently noted the following scenarios:

* Driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 15 mph in cold, wintry weather with the heater on? Expect a range of about 62 miles.

* Driving around 50 mph with the air conditioning on? Nissan says the range will fall to approximately 70 miles.

* In normal highway driving (i.e. 60-70 mph), the Leaf can travel approximately 105 miles, provided the climate controls are off.

* If you leave the heater and A/C off, and keep your speeds to 40 mph or less, the Leaf’s range can jump to roughly 138-140 miles.

Sound extreme? Admittedly, these are extremes. Not all drivers perpetually blast climate controls, drive flat-out down expressways, or sit endlessly in gridlocked traffic. The 100-mile range, which was based upon Nissan’s testing of the EPA’s LA-4 drive cycle, is believed to be a reasonable average.

What’s your commute like? Stuck in traffic? Blitzing down interstates? Can you hypermile your way to the workplace? Would the limited (and fluctuating) range of an EV mesh well with your driving habits, or will you keep shopping elsewhere?

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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