What’s The Range Of A 2012 Nissan Leaf In Winter? We Find Out

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Carwings Shows An Almost-Empty Nissan Leaf

Carwings Shows An Almost-Empty Nissan Leaf

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Just before Nissan officially launched the all-electric Leaf hatchback, it came out with a dizzying list of simulated range predictions based on all kinds of road and weather conditions. 

According to Nissan’s own computer-simulated calculations, the car’s 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack could propel the car up to 138 miles in optimum conditions, or under 62 miles in worse-case scenarios. 

In the spirit of true investigative journalism, we decided to test winter range for ourselves, with a long evening rush-hour commute on a dreary December day. 

Our car for the test was a 2011 European-specification Leaf we purchased in March this year. At the time of the test, our car had a little over 11,500 miles on the clock. 

Arriving at our recharge point -- a rapid DC charging stationed located at a U.K. Nissan Leaf dealer over 80 miles from our destination -- we charged our Leaf to 98 percent full. Then we left on our long-range winter test.

Leaving in the middle of a Friday evening rush-hour, our first ten miles or so consisted of slow-moving stop/start traffic on surface streets before we hit the freeway. An hour after leaving, we hit the freeway.  The outside temperature had dropped to 35 degrees Farenheit.

2011 Nissan Leaf State of Charge and Miles remaining

2011 Nissan Leaf State of Charge and Miles remaining

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It wasn't just cold outside: the interior temperature of our Leaf was also pretty cold. On shorter trips, we would have used  the excellent on-board heater to keep the temperature a more comfortable 70 degrees, but given our destination was over 70 miles away, we refrained from doing so.  

Instead, we wrapped up, using the car’s demist function only when absolutely necessary, and allowed ourselves the luxury of both satellite navigation, and the radio. 

Easing onto the freeway, and almost exclusively driving in the Leaf’s ECO mode to help encourage us to use as little energy as possible, we kept the Leaf at an indicated speed of between 55 and 60 mph, depending on traffic flow. 

By the time we’d reached our potential emergency recharging point -- a freeway rest-stop equipped with a level 2 charger just 15 miles from our destination -- there were only two indicated bars left on the car's 12-segment state-of-charge display.

According to the car's notoriously poor range prediction software, we had enough range for anther 19 miles. 

Pushing on, and with outside temperatures now below freezing, temperatures inside our Leaf were far from pleasant. 

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

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With six miles to go, we pulled off the freeway. Our car predicted we had enough range for 5 miles of driving. Just as the car reached the bottom of the offramp, it gave its first low-battery warning, telling us it was close to running flat. 

Nursing our car along on surface streets at around 30 mph, the car gave us its second low battery warning message a few hundred yards from our destination. By this point, the car had stopped trying to predict range -- an indication it was perilously close to itsTurtle mode in which power is restricted in order to prevent an almost empty battery. 

Pulling up at our charging station, the dash recorded a total of 81 miles since we had recharged the car. We’d arrived, and the car hadn’t entered Turtle mode. 

Logging onto Nissan’s Carwings Portal, we noted the car reported a battery capacity of 0 percent. It estimated the car could drive an additional 2 miles before running out of charge altogether. 

We'd made it.

We've proven it is possible to drive a Nissan Leaf 80 miles in freezing conditions at mostly freeway speeds, but only if you don't use the on-board heater. 

Using our own experience, we estimate that keeping our car’s cabin at a toasty 70 degrees would have cost us around 25 miles in range, requiring a mid-trip recharge. 

If you’re planning a winter trip in your Leaf, we’d advise you plan a recharge stop every 50 miles if you want to stay warm and make good progress.  

But if cold weather doesn’t faze you, it’s possible in moderately cold weather to travel well beyond the EPA’s official 73 mile range estimation. 


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Comments (14)
  1. Comment disabled by moderators.

  2. That Propane cylinder is definitely not the answer. It requires proper ventilation and if infact illegal to sell in California (and MA).

  3. Not Propane Cylinder - but the heater that requires the cylinder.

  4. Wonder how the 2012 LEAF cold weather package impacts range.

  5. I'm not clear if this test LEAF has a cold weather package or not. I have a 2011 LEAF without the cold weather package and I don't get anywhere near the range they achieved. Iv'e been averaging a measly 55 miles per full charge this winter (only 85 in warmer months) and that's with heat off and minimal use of defrosters. Most of my trips are on city streets at low speeds in eco mode. Either their LEAF has a cold weather package or I bought a lemon!

  6. Thanks for the feedback. Always great to hear real world experience before making a purchase decision.

  7. In my experience with my 2011 LEAF the things that kill range fastest are hills and cold weather.Elevation gains even slight ones really impact the range. Depending on the grade my car loses 3 to 4 miles range for ever mile driven. Add that to the cold weather impact on the battery and my range has been in the 50's this winter. I plan on recording the range meter on one of my commutes and posting on You Tube. I wont include audio since I'll be swearing a lot.lol I know I sound like an EV hater but in fact I'm not. I just need a car that can give me a practical range and the LEAF in my experience falls far short. I wouldn't recommend this car to someone who lives in a hilly area or cold climate unless you don't mind recharging constantly.

  8. I don't think you are an EV hater. You are sharing your honest experience with the vehicle and I, for one, appreciate that.

  9. Wow. That's some reduction. I am not seeing that in my 2011 Leaf. I can easily get 70+ miles from the car still, using the heater in eco mode. (Heat set to 16.5 - 18C).

    In stop and go traffic I can get more than that.

    Maybe you just feel the cold more than me?

  10. You didn't get a lemon. I have a 2011 Leaf WITHOUT a battery heater and we get about 35 miles city driving without using heat. consider your self lucky you get 55 miles per charge. ok I confess I do not use eco mode.

  11. we do 64 mile RT on regular basis and its 90% freeway at 60-65 mph. we get home with as little as _ _ _ and as much as 11 miles on the GOM so ya, its possible. lay off the heat that is. with heat on, drop it to ....about 65 miles!

  12. Interesting, the European Carwings website is very different looking than the US version. I wonder why Nissan did that?

    That's very encouraging you can go 80 miles in cold weather. I've typically used the heater during cold weather since I rarely travel 80 miles on a single leg of a journey.

    Did you pre-heat the LEAF before setting off?

  13. The leaf was pre-heated, but no heater was used after departure. And for the record, no, the 2011 Nissan Leaf we used didn't have the winter package.

    Interestingly, the winter package would have been ineffectual in this case in keeping the battery pack warm, as the outside temperature was too warm for it to kick in.

  14. I hear pellet stoves are great when the temps start to head south. Just remember to install concrete floor and wall protection. Just kidding of course, like you guys suggesting 35 degrees is cold?? I think just like the real things that fall off trees they are pretty much non existent,or serve little purpose when the temps drop close to -30. The upside to living here and is that you can still have an emission free transportation in my city of over a million people, which hit a record low in dec/08 of -46.1 C and -58.4 C with the windchill and that we have functioning BIKE LANES all year long.

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