Will an electric car survive the car wash? We find out.Enlarge Photo
Earlier this year we took delivery of our very own 2011 Nissan Leaf. Just like the thousands of other customers worldwide, we took our place in the queue last year and had an agonizingly long wait before we were sitting behind the wheel.
But just under 3 months and 5,000 miles after driving off the dealer forecourt, what have we learned about Nissan’s first production all-electric car that we didn’t know before?
The EPA was right on range, but you can squeeze more out
While we’ve driven our 2011 Nissan Leaf up to 95 miles on a single charge we’ve got to admit that the EPA’s approved range estimate of 73 miles is about right - if you combine a mix of driving styles in a single charge.
Much like our regular contributor George Parrott found with his own car, our Leaf regularly gets between 60 and 85 miles on a 100% charge, but it varies greatly with weather, vehicle weight, and vehicle speed.
2011 Nissan Leaf State of Charge and Miles remainingEnlarge Photo
Realistically, we’ve found it possible to drive a fully laden Leaf - with three passengers and a full load bay - between 60 and 70 miles at freeway speeds in moderate weather with the air conditioning and cruise control set on.
Similarly, with judicious use of the right foot, and the same weight in the car we’ve managed to eke around 95 miles out of a full charge by choosing a route which enabled a cruise speed of between 40 and 45 mph.
Carwings isn’t there... yet
While Nissan’s Carwings telematics system is a great way to keep track of the Leaf’s state of charge and predicted range, the rest of the system needs some significant work.
In the past three months, we’ve witnessed regular system outages with the online Carwings portal, and heard of numerous Leaf customers still struggling to get their cars to even connect to the service.
2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone AppEnlarge Photo
We’ve also discovered that since the much-needed software upgrade to address a fault which could render Leafs immobile , the Carwings system incorrectly under-estimates the car’s range on both the online portal and iPhone applications until the car has been turned on and off. This makes it particularly difficult to check on estimated range when you’re away from the car.
The Leaf really prefers temperate weather
Much like other electric cars without thermal battery heating systems, the 2011 Nissan Leaf really does not like the cold weather. On cold spring days we were regularly seeing a drop in estimated range of between 10 and 15 miles, depending on driving style and outside temperature.
It is still possible to eek out a decent range in cold weather however. We’ve done a 101 mile trip in freezing temperatures with only 2 hours of recharging time mid-course, but in order to make our destination we had to forgo cabin heating and drive extremely carefully.
Of course, given the 2012 Leaf will come with its own heated battery pack as standard, that shouldn’t be an issue for those buying newer Leafs.