Nissan Leaf Range: How Much Does It Lose In The Cold?

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2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

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Whatever car you drive, whether powered by fossil fuels or electricity, range will vary depending on weather conditions.

Typically, the average gasoline or diesel vehicle will be more economical in warmer weather, and less so when it's cold, where the dense air is matched by larger quantities of fuel.

Electric cars vary too, but a difference of ten miles is rather important when you only have 80-odd to play with anyway. That's what Nissan Leaf owners are finding in Arizona as their batteries struggle in the heat, and it's what owners in colder climates are finding too.

Fleetcarma has compiled data from more than 5,400 trips of Leaf owners throughout North America, to see what effect temperature has on range.

And as the graph shows, it's fairly conclusive--the colder it gets, the less range your Leaf will have.

From a daily range capability of around 65 miles at 86 Fahrenheit, range drops as low as 36-37 miles at extreme lows of -13 F--temperatures recently experienced in Canada and some of the U.S. north east. Beyond temperatures in the mid-80s, range begins to fall again.

Fleetcarma's analysis of Nissan Leaf driving range at different temperatures

Fleetcarma's analysis of Nissan Leaf driving range at different temperatures

Enlarge Photo

Temperatures recorded represent the average temperature during the trip, and distances represent the maximum daily range of each vehicle, calculated from measured watt-hours per mile.

As the blog's author points out, range variation depends on several factors, including driving style and the route of each vehicle. But one reason cold temperatures have such a significant effect is down to how much auxiliary load is required--heaters, lights and other accessories used particularly in winter months all siphon power away from driving range.

So, as if it needed proving, really cold weather certainly makes a large difference to range on cars like the Nissan Leaf, without thermally-managed battery packs.

What can you do to mitigate the effects? Check out our guide featuring six steps to maximize driving range in winter.

[Hat tip: Matthew Stevens]


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Comments (9)
  1. Great to see the data on cold weather behavior on the LEAF, even if it is a little depressing. Now I want to see data on some other EV with a thermally managed battery.

  2. I think the Leaf's biggest problem in the cold is the heater. For us de-fogging the windows requires the heater to be on even if you're okay with just hand/seat warmers or no extra heat. The 2013 model will change this so you can de-fog without running the heat and should have substantially better range because of this.

  3. This inability to defog without heat is my biggest complaint with the leaf - that and the pre-fog mode created by the factory-set recirc for pre-conditioning.

  4. In my Volt, with full blast heat and about 27 deg weather (about the lowest that Northern Coastal California gets), my range drops from the a typical 38-40 miles down to 30-32 miles. But then again, I don't use full blast heat all the time. Usually after about 10 mins, I have to switch to Eco and heated seat to lowest setting. But my typical commute and current 40 degree weather drops my Volt from 40 miles to about 35 EV miles.

    Some of the "colder" climate (NortheEast and Midwest) Volt owners have reported range to be as low as 25 miles with Full Heat.

    In my experience, the worst drop happened when it was extremely cold, required defrost/defog and full heat.

  5. Running the heater full time my losses are around 50% at 20 degrees "F" outside.

  6. This is exactly what I was trying to explain to all the BEV purist. Once that 50 mile range (@23 deg) becomes 35 miles (after 5 years with 70% warrantied degradation), the car becomes a very "limited" use car.

    That is why it is better to "lease" the Leaf than buying it, especially with all the improvement coming in the next few years.

    Don't get me wrong, it is NOT a bash against BEV or even Leaf. It is NOT Leaf alone. It affects just about every plugin cars out there. But with today's technology, that is a fact that you would have to live with.

  7. That chart is great. So, Leaf would get 68 miles out of 24KWh in a warm day, but 50 miles (@23deg) out of the same 24KWh battery. So, the difference is 2.83miles/KWh vs 2.08 miles/KWh. But let us assume the "driving efficiency" is the same on the cold day and extra consumption is all due to heat and cold temperature. Then we can divide 50 miles by 2.83 to get 17.6KWh. So, we are losing about 6.6KWh to heat and cold temperature alone. That is 73.4% for driving or 26.6% Battery capacity loss due to heat and temperature.

    Let us assume that is 25% and it is similar for all electric plugins, then a 40 miles car becomes 30 miles. 70 miles car becomes a 52 mile car. 13 miles will become a 9 mile car...

  8. How did the stated 65 mile range figure come about? I thought the Leaf was EPA rated at 73 miles range. Then, an article posted here on GCR referred to Edmunds as testing EVs and saying they typically beat the EPA rated range when they were driven at less than typical highway speeds.

    That said, I know range is dragged down a lot by the heater in cold to very cold weather.

  9. We have a 2011 Leaf with NO battery heater and in Norther Virginia we are noe getting 35 miles range using only the top 10 fuel bars (out of 12) that is without using heat or defrost. we usually get 65 miles range in summer again using only the top 10 fuel bars. to get the 73 miles Nissan says you will get you have to run the battery all the way dead and then tow home. The OBC (on board computer) tells me we get 5.3 miles/kwh summer and 3.1 miles/kwh winter.

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