It’s that time of year when one might notice that the weather does impact Nissan Leaf range — or the range of any electric car. The cold is one thing, but there are other matters to consider as well if you are considering an electric car.
The torrential downpours of summer in the tropics also affect range. Strong wind in any season does as well. Driving in a tropical storm with strong gusts of wind will affect range a great deal. If the wind is trying to blow you backwards, your range will diminish rather quickly. (For slippery conditions, note that the Leaf has ABS, traction control, and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC).)
2. Extreme Cold
I know from reading blogs of Leaf drivers in Canada, upstate New York, Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc., that winter temperatures lessen range, but I’m lucky to not experience that problem too much in subtropical Florida.
Cold temperature affects the range of a charged battery quite a lot. The Nissan Leaf battery has a heater that turns on in the freezing cold. This prevents the battery from freezing up. If you have a home charger and stay plugged in, the charge will come from the charger to warm the battery. It turns on during frozen nights and especially if the EV is parked outside of a garage in the cold blowing night air — zero and below degrees. If the car is not plugged into a charger, the warming drains some range. If one falls asleep with a fully charged battery, one may wake to find it notably lower. On top of that, the range is lessened by the cold itself and by driving in near-zero, zero, or below-zero temperatures. Hopefully our recent article from Jamez helped more of you to plan for such weather.
3. Cold/Winter in Florida
Back to Florida — it’s December and we have had a few “cold” spells (possibly more like summer nights in Canada). I find the cooler weather has lessened the range ever so slightly. The first cold spell, I noticed a 5-mile range difference. Some Januarys are quite cold and some are not here. We shall see if I notice much of an impact on my range this coming January. In the summer months, I typically notice I can charge up to 107 miles and sometimes to 120 miles (on weeks I drive around town and little else). In the cooler weather of winter, however, I have not seen it charge past 100.
Twelve bars on the dash indicate range — around 6-9 miles per bar, considering traffic, conditions, fast vs slow roads. The meter changes with the driving conditions of the day or hour. All in all, the effect of winter in Florida is just barely noticeable given this ongoing variation.
4. Hills & Mountains
Hilly inclines dramatically change range. Florida is fairly flat except for bridges like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (which I use a lot since it connects Bradenton/Sarasota to St. Petersburg/Tampa). Driving the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in my Leaf seems to take 20 miles off the range. If I could coast down the bridge all the way — allowing max regeneration — perhaps it would mitigate the loss almost as much. The fast flow of traffic on the bridge makes this practically impossible, unfortunately.
I remember vividly coming down a long stretch of mountain in North Carolina a few years back. It was a black, wonderfully cool evening and we coasted down the mountain. How much better this must be in an EV. It is profoundly peaceful, quiet, and cooling drifting down a long stretch of a winding, narrow road in Appalachia — dark cradled by the mountains. See my note in the caption above regarding what one EV driver from that region told me.
5. Eco Mode & One-Pedal Driving
Driving in and out ECO mode makes a profound difference. I am so used to Eco mode. My responses after turning it off the other day: Wow. That was the first time I took it out of Eco in a long time — to zoom past a driver to my left and get ahead in a tight spot. I torqued out ahead of the other cars at the light — like the roadrunner on espresso. That is a feature I never quite explored, but may do so more. I glanced in the side window and noticed I left everyone else at the starting line well behind me. Now I see how addictive that might be.
99.99% of the time I am in ECO mode and I rarely brake. Rather than using the brake, I watch lights carefully and I vary the pressure on the accelerator. Rarely do I need to switch to the brake. Speed up, coast, slow down, speed up, coast to a stop, or slow down — one-pedal driving. On empty lonely roads south of Sarasota, I once used only “9 miles range” for a stretch that was 20 miles by doing this.
Related to the above, of course, is speed. High-speed driving eats up range quickly — like the cookie monster eats cookies. Aggressive driving eats up range. I drive like a grandma — I am a grandma — so that is not my style. If anything, I go too slow at times, but that is at least good for my range. On those days, I can charge up to 120 miles.
7. Air Conditioning
Air conditioning has a small impact on the range, but still a bit. As I am always in Eco mode, it is minimal — approximately 5 miles difference generally. I suspect in the far north that heating up the cabin, seats, and battery takes more range.
Don’t Get Anxious, Though
I rarely get below 50 miles of range, except when traveling out of town, like I was when charging at a Nissan dealership in the photo below. Once you get a sense for how an EV’s battery responds to different conditions, you should know your car well enough to not run into anxiety.
EV Winter Range Loss Is Both Fact & Fiction
Confessions of a Cold Weather Commuter (Driving a Ford Focus Electric)
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