2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

The PR guy got us lost.

Twice.

But David Reuter, Nissan’s chief communications director, didn’t break a sweat even when the Remaining Range indicator fell below 5 miles and started flashing.

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

Which leads us to think that even after the 2011 Nissan Leaf battery pack hits “empty,” there’s still a reserve in there.

We've covered our full driving impressions of the 2011 Nissan Leaf elsewhere, and our colleague Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield is driving a Leaf in Portugal today. Watch for her reports over the next day or two.

But now we can bring you photos of what the Leaf's information display shows as it begins to run low on battery-pack electricity, limiting its range.

First, when the energy in the 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack falls to about one-sixth of a full charge, the car notifies you--and calculates how far you are from the nearest recharging point.

That's what happened to us. With 12 miles of indicated range remaining (based on the driving pattern of the individual behind the wheel), the car showed an alert and displayed three charge points within that radius.

Take me to a charger, Jeeves

It asked us if we wanted to be directed to one, and we accepted the suggestion. Then the navigation system simply sent us there--except that we got lost for that second time, as we chatted and missed a turn.

That's what caused the system to dip well below the 5-miles-remaining mark, as we had to travel a few miles up the road to turn around. That's when the dashes that replaced the "range remaining" number began to flash.

That said, we made it back to the indicated charging station (which was, admittedly, not a public station but underneath Nissan's headquarters building).

Total mileage since recharge on our Leaf was just over 100 miles as we pulled into the garage. But that's far from the highest number achieved; other sites covered as much as 116 miles without recharging, and still had enough juice left to operate the car.

2 gallons left?

And that's why we suspect that even after the battery is "totally depleted," there's a margin of energy remaining to let Leaf drivers limp home if necessary.

Nissan execs wouldn't directly confirm this, but they pointed out that even when the gas gauge of a conventional car is riding solidly on "E" for empty, the industry standard is to have two gallons remaining in the tank.

We doubt there's that much range left--2 gallons even at 20 mpg gives you 40 miles of range--but we'd believe something like 10 percent hidden capacity, meaning another 10 to 15 miles of range.

We're waiting to hear about the media outlet that's brave enough to hammer the Leaf down an Interstate at speed until it completely, totally, utterly runs out of juice--and then quits. Nissan is waiting for that too, though with far less anticipation.

 

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

Range anxiety? Don't believe in it

Nissan product planner Mark Perry says flatly, "We believe range anxiety is a falsehood."

He says that electric-car drivers turn out to adjust fairly quickly to their cars' abilities, and soon stop worrying about the car in daily use. If Leaf owners have a day where the total journeys add up to more than 100 miles, he says, they simply plan to use another vehicle in the household fleet.

Our only question is whether Reuter got us lost--twice--on purpose or not. We're still pondering that, but at least now we know what it feels like.

Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.