The restyled 2018 Nissan LEAF (a longer range version is scheduled to arrive later this year) is flying off dealer lots around the world (despite a setback in April). Sales have been especially brisk in Norway, a country with EV incentives second only to China. Last winter, Elbil, the Norwegian electric car association, test drove 7 electric cars in winter conditions and found the new LEAF had the highest energy consumption in the group by a wide margin. It also found the LEAF required far longer time to recharge its battery, which allowed the Hyundai Ioniq Electric to keep up with it when driving long distances, even though the Korean car has a smaller battery.
In the cold weather test, the LEAF consumed 19.5 kWh per 100 kilometers while the Ioniq used only 14.1 kWh. Its testers were interested how ambient temperatures affected the LEAF and the Ioniq, so on a recent weekend with temperatures in the low 80s (Fahrenheit), they set off on road trip that would pit the two cars in a head to head comparison. This time, the difference between the two cars was less noticeable but still in favor of the Hyundai. Energy consumption for the LEAF was 13.8 kWh versus 12 kWh for the Ioniq.
That’s all well and good, but the testers found the LEAF took longer to charge than the Ioniq if both cars were charged several times during the same day. Although the difference in energy consumption is less, the difference in charging speed is greater than it was in the winter. “We performed four charging stops for two consecutive days, and it was only at the start of the first quick charge every morning that we [the LEAF] got near [its] maximum power [of] 50 kilowatts,” Elbil reports.
Although it can theoretically accept up to 50 kW of charging power, the LEAF often limited itself to between 16 and 19 KW. The higher the state of charge at the beginning of a charging session, the slower the charging process became. By contrast, using the same fast charging equipment, the Ioniq consistently accepted 22 to 25 kW of charging power regardless of its state of charge.
The way the LEAF handles charging may be impacted by its lack of active cooling. A Nissan representative told Elbil, “If the temperature rises, charging decreases to avoid excessive temperature to avoid damaging the battery. It is a mechanism that will take care of the battery as much as possible.” The LEAF’s battery uses air cooling which only operates when the car is in motion.
The company says it chose that system because of the way LEAF owners use their cars. Its data suggests less than 1% of drivers use a fast charger more than once a day. The Nissan NV200 electric van has a cooling system that operates while the van is stationary because commercial customers use their vehicles differently and often use fast chargers multiple times a day.
A spokesperson for Nissan told Elbil that the most important objective is to take care of the battery. “We want to be open to the characteristics of all our cars, so that the customer knows the product and takes his choice based on this.” Translation? If you are planning to fast charge your electric car two or more times a day on a regular basis, the LEAF may not be the right choice for you.
Hat tip to Leif Hansen
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