Just how fuel efficient is an electric car?

That’s been the question facing the EPA for months as it has battled the ratings system to give consumers a realistic and useful way of comparing electric cars against gasoline counterparts.  

Now we know. The EPA has decreed that the 2011 Nissan Leaf gets a fuel economy of 99 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe). 

2011 Nissan Leaf window sticker showing 99-MPG

2011 Nissan Leaf window sticker showing 99-MPG

As for the official range per charge? A conservative 73 miles, 23 miles below Nissan’s own estimate.


Part of it comes down to the way the EPA has tested the LEAF. In keeping with its own guidelines for performance, the EPA has used standard 5-cycle testing over a variety of roads and in a variety of weather conditions. 

We’ve proven that the 2011 Nissan Leaf is more than capable of traveling the 100 miles per charge that Nissan claim the Leaf will achieve. One test-driver from another site even managed well over 100 miles.

And these longer-distances per charge aren’t freak occurrences too. Everyone we’ve spoken to has managed at least 85+ miles per charge. Many more easily achieve the 100 miles mark.

To arrive at the MPGe figures, the EPA assumed that 33.7 kilowatt-hours holds the equivalent energy to one gallon of gasoline. We’re not sure how these figures are arrived at or why the EPA decided to include them, but we’d like to see a more meaningful way of measuring electric vehicle economy.

As for City and Highway tests, the EPA estimate the Leaf’s MPGe to be 106 and 92 respectively. 

But while the EPA estimates range per charge as being 73 miles,  the Federal Trade Commission disagrees. Its own tests, the FTC discovered a variance between 93 and 110 miles per charge. 

To confuse matters, both EPA ratings and FTC ratings will appear on the 2011 Nissan Leaf when it hits showrooms next month. 

There’s no word yet of the EPA ratings for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, but if the Leaf ratings are anything to go by we’d advise you get ready for some disappointing range calculations from the Volt’s 40-mile-per-charge battery.