2012 Nissan Leaf Proves Itself On Snowy Japanese Test Course

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2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

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Prior to this winter, Nissan has only sold its all-electric Leaf hatchback to customers in moderate climates. 

But just as Nissan North America was celebrating selling its 10,000th Leaf, Nissan Japan was proving that the Leaf wasn’t scared of winter weather with a special press event held near the northern city of Shibetsu, Hokkaido. 

With ambient temperatures averaging just 15.8 degrees Fahrenheit, Nissan invited Japanese automotive journalists to test the handling and performance of the Leaf in frigid temperatures. 

Despite the cold outside temperatures, Nissan technicians reported the temperature of each test car’s battery packs used never dropped below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, illustrating that at worst, the battery packs were only slightly below optimum operating temperature. 

More impressively, not a single test car was fitted with the on-board battery heating system now fitted as standard to U.S. market Leafs. According to Nissan, the temperatures in Shibetsu were not cold enough to warrant using battery heating.

Despite low traction conditions caused by snow and ice, many of the journalists taking part reported that they were surprised at how well the Leaf handled the three powdery courses. 

According to Nissan Technical guru Hiroyoshi Kato, the Leaf's good road manners in bad weather are a direct result of its design.

“The footwork of the Leaf is smooth and nimble because the heavy components, such as batteries, are mounted under the floor, and the center of gravity is low and in the middle,” he explained. “As you may have seen, a car can easily slip or drift on snow or ice. As for the Leaf, the changing attitude of the car -- the start of slipping, etc. -- is very smooth and easy to control compared to conventional front engine/rear drive or front engine/front drive vehicles. “

Although Nissan hasn’t confirmed it, we would expect that each vehicle used in the Japanese winter test drive event lost around twenty percent of its normal range due to running the heater to keep the driver and passengers of each vehicle warm.  As we’ve told you before, driving a Leaf in freezing conditions without heating is particularly unpleasant. 

Have you driven a Nissan Leaf in heavy snowfall? How would you rate its performance compared with other cars in bad weather? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (5)
  1. In bad weather, actually, I drove the Leaf in a really, really wet day last November.
    We (me, my wife and kids) travelled more or less 20 Kms under heavy rain, we were commenting "let's hope we don't get electrocuted, with this rain".
    Well, I'm still here to tell the story.
    cheers --- :)

  2. last week, my area received 10-20" of snow. for 3 days, my street of 13 houses had only my tire tracks on it (along with the neighbors 4 wheeler) as my Leaf was the only one that could make it out. problem was the snowfall was followed by an ice storm that put a good 1-2" of ice on everything. it was not easy to get out. but i disabled traction control and rocked back and forth until i made it to the main road. it took a good 5 minutes to move that 200 feet, but at least i made it out

  3. Just outside of Seattle we recently had a foot or more of snow and then alayer of ice on top. It took 4 tries to get up hill out of my driveway because I needed to carve my way through the layer of ice but once on the road I was very impressed with the traction my leaf provided with my normal all season tires. I live on top of a big (1.5 mile) hill and I had not trouble going up or down. I was very happy.

  4. VERY SCAREY! Turn off the Traction Control and call Nissan!
    I'm an experienced snow driver, have four new studded snows on the Leaf so you'd think there's be no trouble. Wrong. The beginning of my trip from my rural barn on a semi-plowed road with random slush and snow of about four inches (a pittance around here) was one of the more terrifying snow experiences I have had. On a completely straight road the Leaf attempted to pitch itself into the ditch three or four times. Top speed 21MPH. Every time it hit the slush it initiated a scarey over correction, feeling like the origination of a spin--until I turned off the traction control. Then all felt pretty normal. This has never been the case with my Saabs, or any car with this feature.

  5. Not the deserts of Arizona!!!!!

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