What Does It Take To Drive An Electric Car In Canadian Winters? Page 2

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

There must be reasons why electric vehicle early-adopters plug in religiously, while northerners can't be troubled to block-heat their cars.

MORE: 2012 Nissan Leaf Proves Itself On Snowy Japanese Test Course (VIDEO)

There's a graduate thesis in there, I'll bet – and a lot of money, too, for the entrepreneur who invents a better-connecting, smartphone-controllable block heater system.

Cabin heat gets half the blame

Robin's observations left open the question of whether range droop occurred due to the cold weather, or his (understandably) having the heater on at full blast.

Nissan Leaf electric car range as a function of temperature [data: Ricardo Borba]

Nissan Leaf electric car range as a function of temperature [data: Ricardo Borba]

Nissan Leaf owner Ricardo Borba had the answer.


The Ottawa resident tracked his Leaf's estimated range over 500+ trips, grouped the numbers by outdoor temperature, and plotted them.

Working a hunch, he made cold-weather trips with and without any cabin heating, resulting in the attached chart – available in metric (at left) and Imperial units (previous page).

Ricardo's data showed that his Leaf's range dropped by about 20 miles, or 30 km, between summer and winter. Heating the cabin reduced the range by a further 20 miles.

Which means only half the drop was battery-related; the rest came from the parasitic load to warm the cabin.

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Ricardo mitigated the problem by buying a small ceramic heater to heat only the driver area -- on-vehicle heating systems are necessarily designed to warm the entire cabin equally, so are less efficient. 

He did note that Nissan has since improved the efficiency of its cabin heating system, and we can imagine other automakers will be innovating in this area, to reduce the draw on the batteries.

If you'd like to thank Borba for his painstaking efforts on behalf of the electric vehicle community, his blog is well worth a visit.

* Vancouver could one day lose its claim to being the Canadian tropics, given the country's century-long (pipe) dream of annexing the British-administered Turks and Caicos Islands (near Bermuda) into Canadian Confederation. Indeed, the Caribbean territory even made proposals to that effect in the 1970s. Nine years ago, one province offered to integrate the islands into their territory to simplify any constitutional paperwork (!) -- and one must admit, "Nova Scotia, Turks and Caicos" does have a certain ring to it.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that the Leaf could be parked for a month in Antarctica, due to an embarrassing math error on the contributor's part. In fact, the Leaf could only be parked for a weekend, as 24 kWh = 300 W x 80 hours, not 800 hours. This puts the figures in line with Nissan's warranty terms, as noted by sharp-eyed readers in the comments. Many thanks to Gordon Wong for the catch.]


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