2011 Nissan Leaf: Range Anxiety Sets In

June 7, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
1193 miles, 5:50 PM

I'm starting my week with the Nissan Leaf, which is sitting, fully charged, in our parking structure, showing a range of 102 miles. After only two miles on the road, that range has already plummeted to 77 miles, based I guess on my aggressive driving, because I'm late to my core training class across town.
2011 Nissan Leaf Front Charging
8:10 PM
The Leaf says it has 86 miles remaining as I'm driving home from core class. It was fast and easy to connect my iPhone with Bluetooth.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
8:30 AM

I'm with Automobile Magazine's west coast editor, Jason Cammisa, who flew in last night for two days of off-site meetings. We've got 70 miles of range, which should be fine because the hotel on the south side of Ann Arbor where we're headed is only about ten or twelve miles away. I didn't bother to charge the Leaf overnight, but I realized this morning that I won't be back at the office, where we have a fast-charging station in our parking structure, until Thursday morning.
"Ah, good luck with that!" cackles Jason, who's already spent a week with a Nissan Leaf in the Bay Area, where he found it severely curtailed his social life. Tonight, then, I'll need to plug it into one of the two exterior outlets on my house. The Leaf will be living outside at Chez DeMatio, because our garage is full of tools, equipment, crap, and a disassembled utility trailer.
We're two miles down the road from my house, and already the range has plummeted to 65 miles.
"It was at 61 miles a second ago," warns Jason.
If we stay in the city, it will go up, but we're hitting I-94 eastbound, so I pitch the Leaf onto the circular entrance ramp with the gusto that one might use with a Nissan GT-R, tires squealing, electric motor humming.
"Punch it, Margaret!" encourages Jason. "Just chuck it in real hard. We're saving the planet!"
7:00 PM
We get in the Leaf at 5:00, and it has a range of 60 miles, but we don't drive it. Associate editor Eric Tingwall and I sit in it with the A/C running for 33 minutes while conducting a job interview with a potential new Automobile Magazine editor over Bluetooth. Then Jason and I have an impromptu meeting with editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, so I eventually turn off the Leaf because the battery is really losing its juice. It's now at 45 miles, which should be plenty to get us home.
9:44 PM
We drive home, but there isn't a darn thing to eat there, so now we're heading back to downtown Ann Arbor, about seven miles away. We've got a 25-mile range, and the "fuel" gauge is only one bar away from the red zone, so we're parking it at our office quick charger while we go to dinner at Frita Batidos.
2011 Nissan Leaf Rear Left Side View Parked
One hour and fifteen minutes gets us a 47-mile range, indicated by two more white bars on the gauge; we had one bar before. That will be plenty to get us home and back to the corporate meeting in the morning, I reckon.
"Not if I can help it!" says Jason, for whom two days of corporate meetings is not fun. Too bad, Jason, I'm gonna get you there on time tomorrow!
We get home and the range is 34 miles. Plug it in. Good night.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
8:13 AM

After the overnight home charge, we show an 80-mile range, more than of a tank.
We're driving in pouring rain on eastbound I-94. We're maybe 10 miles from home, and the range has plummeted from 80 to 46 miles. Freeways are killers for EVs!
The Leaf sits all day during our meetings, and then takes us 2 or 3 miles back to the office, 2 miles to dinner, and 5 miles home. It shows a 33-mile range, so I don't plug it in overnight because we have only to drive the 7 miles to the office in the morning.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
9:40 AM

With 1259 miles on the odometer, we plug it into the office charger; it should be fully charged by the time I leave tonight. Jason is flying home this evening but I thankfully don't have to take him to the Detroit airport. That round trip from A2 is probably more than the Leaf can handle.
10:30 PM
The Leaf has been plugged into our speedy structure station for 12.5 hours, so it's completely charged up, with an 86-mile range. It was probably fully charged by early afternoon, actually.
Friday, May 27, 2011
10:00 AM

I was late for an 8 AM meeting so I parked the Leaf on the street. Now I've got it up on the sixth floor of the parking structure, plugged into our charger. With 57 miles showing, a tank, I want it to be fully charged when I leave for the Memorial Day weekend.
10:52 PM
The Leaf has been plugged in for nearly 13 hours, and it's fully charged with a range of 82 miles. Time to go home. I have no plans to leave Washtenaw County over the long holiday weekend, so I figure the Leaf will meet my needs just fine. Little do I know...
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Leaf sits all day because I'm doing house and yard work. I'm driving it to a dinner party in town tonight, probably about 10 miles away, and I expect I'll leave it there because I plan to drink. I'll get a ride home with someone who imbibes less than I do.
2011 Nissan Leaf Charging Side View
Sunday, May 29, 2011
12:00 noon

I just picked up the car after having left it overnight at Tom & Adrienne's house. By the time I get home, the range is 36 miles. The Indy 500 is about to begin. Later this afternoon, I might run to Costco, so I'm plugging it in now. Costco is 18 miles away, about half on two-lane, half on the freeway.
Well, crap. I'm getting onto 94 westbound and a car comes sweeping by in the left lane and kicks up a stone and I hear the sound of rock against glass and sure enough we now have a windshield chip.
I increased range to 44 miles with a brief plug-in, so I hope that's enough to pick up my carless friend Dave, who's helping me with some yard work, in Ypsilanti's Depot Town and get back here, stopping at Lowe's along the way. Depot Town is 18 miles from Chez DeMatio, 14 of them on I-94. I've ditched the Costco plans.
1:51 PM
The range plummets quickly on eastbound 94. It seems you go less than a mile and the readout drops more than a mile. Soon enough I fall in behind a semi and draft, which definitely helps, as the electric motor draw rate drops significantly. As I'm arriving in downtown Ypsilanti, I'm at a 29-mile range, so I should be fine.
3:00 PM
Helper Dave in the passenger's seat, I make it home with 5 miles range, the range indicator flashing ominously. This is getting uncomfortable.
7:30 PM
Four and a half hours later, today's work is done, but the range on the Leaf is only 25 miles, and the indicator is still in the red zone. So we're going to have to go into town, charge it at the office, get some ice cream, and hope for the best, before heading to Ypsi.
7:56 PM
We're downtown, plugged into the structure, with 14 miles on the clock, so we'll give it some time and see what happens.
2011 Nissan Leaf Charging
9:23 PM
After a solid 1.5 hours at the office charger, range has risen appreciably, from 14 to 40 miles. That should be enough to get me to Ypsilanti and back home.
10:04 PM
I've dropped Dave in Depot Town and I'm back on the freeway, with 14 miles to Chez DeMatio. The Leaf says it has 21 miles left. I'm doing 71 mph.
10:12 PM
Oh, my God. I've got 3 miles before my exit, and another 2 miles after that, but the Leaf is angrily flashing that it has only 3 miles until empty. What can be worse than a dead EV? A dead EV alongside a busy freeway at night, I decide. Time to exit so I don't get stranded on I-94. I've turned off the climate control and the radio. Still flashing 3. I have half of a tree on the display though, and a full tree from earlier, which means I've been driving in an environmentally correct manner! If I run out, where can I stop and plug in? The Nissan dealership! I'll go there if I have to: I'll be driving right by.
10:23 PM
I exit, and the Leaf continues to flash 3 miles. I creep west along Jackson Road. With only 1.5 miles to my house, a message appears on the display screen: YOU HAVE REACHED VERY LOW BATTERY. DO YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR A CHARGING STATION? I hit the yes button, and it gives me a list, top of which is my own house. I coax the car along, do some hoping and praying, and by the time I mercifully arrive at the top of my driveway, the range display is just an ominous dotted line. Whew.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Memorial Day
12:30 PM

The Leaf has charged on my slow home plug for a solid 14 hours and shows a 69-mile range, about a tank.
12:51 PM
I'm at the office, and the car shows a range of 63 miles. The parking structure is empty because it's Memorial Day, so I'm able to slalom around the speed bumps. Overall, the Leaf drives pretty well. The steering is not too artificially weighted and there's good visibility; it's a great city car. The off-the-line torque is great for accelerating away from a stoplight.
4:11 PM
After 3 hours and 15 minutes on the office charger, the Leaf is full, with a 97-mile range.
2011 Nissan Leaf Power
6:21 PM
I've gone 20 miles since the office and range has dropped from 97 to 64 miles. Heck, it plummeted by 3 or 4 miles before I even left the parking structure. It helped that I drove on surface streets from downtown Ann Arbor to Depot Town, where I'm picking up Dave again, and I've been on streets ever since. Rather than hopping on the freeway, I'm taking surface streets all the way home, hoping to keep the range up.
7:14 PM
When I get home, the range is 47 miles. I still have to take Dave back to Ypsi and come back home, so I've plugged it in.
9:45 PM
I charged it on the home circuit for 3 hours and got it to 67 miles, which should be just enough to get me to Depot Town and back.
9:51 PM
On the freeway heading east, we've gone only 5 miles, but the display has dropped from 67 to 41 miles. That's how quickly it drops when you hit the freeway.
I just dropped Dave, and now I'm taking Washtenaw Avenue west to US23 north. I have almost an entire tree again. The readout is 26 miles. Last night I, with 26 miles, barely made it home. That's why I'm driving partly on surface streets.
10:25 PM
I've exited the freeway with 11 miles showing, which should be fine to get home. I've been averaging 3.3 miles per kWh, according to the energy use monitor.
10:33 PM
The range has dropped to 7 miles, and a woman's voice intones "LOW BATTERY CHARGE," but I'm almost home. I'll plug it in overnight.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
7:20 AM

After nine hours of charging, I've got a range of 49 miles. Plenty to get to work, where I'll plug in the Leaf and return to internal combustion vehicles. Now it's Jake Holmes's turn for a week in the all-electric Nissan.
After one week with the Leaf, one thing I know for certain is that you would want to have a fast charging station both at home and work if you owned one.
2011 Nissan Leaf
2011 Nissan Leaf Dash
Base price (with destination): $33,600
Price as tested: $33,930
Available federal tax rebate: up to $7500
Standard Equipment:
16" aluminum alloy wheels
Portable trickle-charger cable
Front-seat side-impact air bags
Front- and rear-seat side curtain air bags
Stability and traction control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Electronic brake force distribution and brake assist
Vehicle security system
Cruise control
6-speaker CD audio system with audio input jack
USB connection port
XM Satellite Radio
Navigation system
Multi-function trip computer
Power windows & locks
LED headlights & taillights
Bluetooth hands-free phone system
Options on this vehicle:
Splash guards, $140
Floor mats & cargo area mat $170
Cargo net $20
Key options not on vehicle:
Internal-combustion engine (not offered)
Solar panel spoiler
Rearview camera
Auto on/off headlamps
EPA-rated range:
73 miles
Estimated charging time:
220-volt outlet: 8 hours
110-volt outlet: 21 hours
DC fast charge to 80%: 30 minutes
80 kW AC synchronous motor
24 kWh lithium-ion battery
3.3 kW onboard charger
120-volt portable trickle charging cable
240-volt home charging dock
Optional 50 kW DC fast-charging port
Single-speed direct-drive
Curb weight: 3366 lb
Coefficient of drag: 0.29
Length x width x height: 175.0 x 69.7 x 61.0 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in

Long-Term 2011 Nissan Leaf Reviews to Date:

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