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2011 Nissan Leaf: Charging Forward, One Quarter-Mile At A Time

No, I don’t think the 2011 Nissan Leaf is a hot hatch, or anything close to a serious performance machine. But after spending a week behind the wheel and fighting my lead foot to extend my range, I wanted a chance to see what it could do when the pedal was placed to the floor.

Luckily enough, Leaf keys were thrown my way on a Wednesday, which is when Milan Dragway holds its weekly test-and-tune night. Plop down $25, sign a few liability waivers, and you can squeeze in as many passes down the quarter-mile strip as time; weather; and in my case, battery charge levels allow. Just make sure to put a big “n/a” in the field that asks for your engine displacement if you show up with an EV.

Any qualms about trying to get an electric vehicle through tech inspections are soon negated. “Interesting,” the tech official said. “We haven’t seen a Leaf out here quite yet.” The bulbous hatchback’s profile and conspicuous silence draw stares, but no one asks why I’d try and run the thing. I’m only asked if it’ll make a smoky burnout. Well, no — partially because I forget to deactivate traction control.

The bulky Chevy sedan next to me faults and leaves the line early, but I don’t care — I’m mainly interested in just how quickly the Leaf goes from point A to point B. The electric motor feels strong until you get above 55 mph; from there on out, it seems as if the torque disappears and speedometer hangs in the 60- and 70-mph range for eternity. The ET slip seems to confirm this…

CAR 227

  • Reaction: .7800 (I know, I know; I need more practice…)
  • 60 ft: 2.6 seconds
  • 330 ft: 7.2539 seconds
  • 1/8 mile: 11.1759 seconds at 61.63 mph
  • 1000′: 14.6098 seconds at 70.90 mph
  • 1/4 mile: 17.5428  at 75.64 mph

Well, that’s a little better than what I expected; I’d heard rumblings quarter-mile times of 18 seconds or so, though I’ve also seen some journalists have whittled that down to about 17.3 seconds. I’d have liked a few more runs, but Mother Nature whipped up a thunderstorm and rained out the rest of the session. Perhaps another time.

Drag strip metrics for EVs aren’t relevant for any real-world user, but I did have a chance to use the Leaf with an accessory that is. During my week with the car, I charged the Leaf either with the OEM 120- or 240-volt chargers, or Chargepoint’s 240-volt station. This time around, I found a public station — operated by DTE Energy — to recharge in nearby Saline, Michigan, but it featured a new charger design from supplier giant Eaton.

I stayed overnight at a friend’s place in the area, allowing the Leaf to remain plugged in for several hours. Although the charger did its job, I’m not all that blown away by this particular design, especially when compared to Chargepoint’s device. Unlike that one, Eaton’s device provides  no relevant information (i.e. time plugged in, kWh consumed during the charge, etc.) to the user, either by way of a display screen or by remote messaging.  That could be an issue — while Chargepoint’s stations notify users of a disconnect or if a fault occurred, I had no way of checking into why the Eaton charger displayed a red service tell-tale when I arrived the next morning.

Minor bugs, but I sincerely hope as local utility companies decide to deploy more EV charge stations, they consider turning to Chargepoint. Heck, DTE already has in Ann Arbor…

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