Nissan LEAF Finally Gets Official EPA Fuel Economy Label

By · November 22, 2010

Nissan LEAF EPA label

With consumer deliveries scheduled to begin in the next month, the Nissan LEAF has been granted a final fuel economy window sticker from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—truly at the eleventh hour. The label, based on the EPA 5-cycle testing procedures that all vehicles are subjected to when developing their window stickers, will tell consumers that the LEAF gets 99 miles per gallon-equivalent (MPGe), can go 73 miles on one charge, takes 7 hours to fully charge and releases zero grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The 99 MPGe rating scores the LEAF as best-in-class for midsize vehicles.

The final label was a long time coming, but at this point Nissan is just relieved to have it before the cars start shipping. "Being a leader, we're the first," said Mark Perry, Nissan's North American Director of Product Planning, in an interview with PluginCars.com. "We've been working hard at this to make sure everything was right. We're excited to be first and we're excited to be considered best in class for fuel efficiency and environmental impact and we couldn't have asked for a better result."

Is 73 Miles Per Charge Fair?

As many readers know, an electric car's range will vary greatly depending on driving style, so including one figure as an average doesn't really capture reality. All along Nissan has said that the LEAF will average 100 miles per charge but that range can vary from 40 to 140 miles depending on conditions. In fact, just last month I was given the chance to be the first person on the planet to publicly take the LEAF from a full to empty battery and delivered 116.1 miles without hypermiling.

However, given that the EPA label will state that the LEAF only goes 73 miles per charge, consumers will be presented with a different number than the 100 miles per charge that Nissan has been claiming—and one that will likely be at the low end of what consumers can expect to see on a daily basis. Mark Perry indicated that he's not terribly concerned about the range listing on the EPA label given that it all comes down to this "range of ranges" concept. "100 miles was against the LA-4 cycle, 73 miles is against the EPA 5 cycle, there will also be a Federal Trade Commission alternative fuel label that lists 96 to 110 miles as the range," he said.

But still, after all the early adopters buy their vehicles, this will be the main number that consumers see when they are thinking about buying a vehicle. 73 miles per charge is a hell of a lot less enticing than 100 miles per charge.

Does Miles Per Gallon-Equivalent Actually Mean Anything?

For better or worse the EPA has decided to go with the controversial MPGe rating system to bring some familiarity to consumers when thinking about fuel economy. Rather than rating electric cars with a "miles per kilowatt hour" number, the EPA has done its own calculations to give a kilowatt hour an equivalent energy rating to a gallon of gas. "Time will tell whether this idea of miles per gallon equivalent resonates with consumers or it doesn't," said Perry. "I think this is where it starts and we'll see over time whether consumers accept it. Consumers have told the EPA from the beginning this is where they wanted to jump off from because they recognize miles per gallon, but of course, we have no gallons. There's this whole big physics formula behind the scenes, but very simply the consumer said 'I understand miles per gallon and I still want a comparison, so just make the comparison easy for me to understand.'"

Nissan Chooses Familiarity Over Letter Grades

Nissan was given the choice of using the new EPA label style that is currently in a public comment period (with letter grades of A+ to D-) or going with the old style that most consumers are comfortable with. "We could have chosen that A+ to D- approach and we would have gotten an A+, but given the choice we opted for the more familiar format," said Perry. "Consumers are familiar with the existing labels that are on cars, this one maybe has different categories and different numbers but it looks the same and has the same information."

So What Does the Label Tell Us About the Car?

Based on the EPA 5-cycle testing procedure, the LEAF will only return 2.94 miles per kWh (mpkWh)—derived from the listed 34 kWh used per 100 miles. As those of us that understand the ins and outs of electric cars will tell you, 2.94 mpkWh is a low-ball number for a vehicle designed from the ground up as an EV and would require you to be driving with absolutely no mind to saving energy in an aggressive manner. Sure it will happen occasionally, but it won't be the average. Nissan believed its hands were tied on this rating. "The EPA took the LEAF through same 5 cycle test they use to test gas engine cars—so air conditioning on and biased more highway driving than city," said Perry. "It's the law, the EPA couldn't change it and we couldn't petition them to change it."

Comments

· · 3 years ago

Hi Nick,

I've been tracking the LEAF for over a year and think it's a winner. It can't serve as your only car, but for commutes and around town it may make sense for some drivers. I certainly trust Nissan more than GM.

See my review and video of my recent test drive of the LEAF at http://sandacom.wordpress.com/.

· · 3 years ago

Having the FTC slap an alternate "96 to 110 miles range" sticker on the LEAF tells you that a "pissing contest" likely occurred between the EPA, FTC, Nissan, and possibly others in the administration. The FTC is simply stipulating Nissan's claims of 100 mile range, regardless of what EPA is stating, is not false advertising.

· · 3 years ago

There's something weird about the math here. So Nissan have said the LEAF has a 24kWh battery pack and you can use 95% of it. However, the EPA sticker says the LEAF uses 34kWh's to go 100 miles and the car has a 73 mile range. Therefore, the EPA must have expended 24.82kWh's during their EPA 5-cycle test. That's nearly a kWh in excess of the size of the pack. Clearly Nissan have been low-balling the size of the battery pack.

· · 3 years ago

Interesting point indy. I know there's been some chatter out there about the LEAF having a larger battery pack than what Nissan has said, but I can tell you that in conversation with Nissan engineers they swear that the pack is indeed only 24 kWh and there is no funny business going on. I'm guessing it's just a matter of the EPA not knowing which hand is doing what and that the team that is in charge of calculating kWh per mile is not using exactly the same formula as the team calculating range. Maybe I'm wrong, but dolt headed government bureaucracy is more likely the culprit than some Nissan-led conspiracy that does the company no good to hide.

· · 3 years ago

And since I didn't say it in my first post: Nice catch BTW!

· · 3 years ago

^^ Oops, I forgot about regen.

· · 3 years ago

Right, so perhaps no dolt headed bureaucracy—to any government employees I may have offended :)

· · 3 years ago

At least this 73 miles/charge is a number we can be fairly confident in. I still don't recommend people buy a Leaf if they need to drive more than about 60 miles without a charging opportunity but now I feel a bit more comfortable with this guess.
This 0.34mi/kWhr is probably equivalent to driving on the freeway at about 70 - 75 mph without air conditioning or 67 - 72 mph with heat or air conditioning if my Tesla experience holds.
Regarding battery capacity: A battery's capacity is sort of a slushy number anyway. It mainly depends on how deep they let it discharge and how high they let it charge up. I'm pretty sure you could fit a lot more than 24 kWhrs into a Leaf's battery but the battery life would suffer if you did. Temperature also will affect it. You can't really judge too closely.
Regen, however, should be factored into the 0.34 mi/kWhr consumption estimate.

· Jim1961 (not verified) · 3 years ago

The Japanese tend to exaggerate the performance of their cars. In Japan the Prius is rated at 89 MPG. Toyota claims the Prius has the lowest coefficient of drag of any vehicle at .25. GM tested the Prius in their wind tunnel and didn't come up with .25. I'm going to out on a limb and predict that when GM finally gets it's EPA sticker for the Volt the electric range will be close to what GM promised. Mark my words.

· · 3 years ago

@Jim1961, I test drove the Volt and the engine (genset) kicked in at 31 miles of electric range. It was a preproduction unit and there was a lot of highway driving. The GM rep said they were still tweaking the software. We'll see. BTW, I would have thought the Volt's EPA sticker would have been released before the LEAFs. I wonder what the hold up is?

· Jim1961 (not verified) · 3 years ago

When I was in third grade I read in my math textbook that we would convert to the “metric system” in about ten years. That was over 40 years ago. I can understand why some people think MPGe is antiquated. The reason I put metric system in quotations is because I learned in engineering school the proper term was SI or Le Système International d’Unités (it’s French for International Units) The reason I bring this up is because miles per kiloWatt-hours is not SI either. Kilometers per kiloWatt-hour is also not SI. The SI unit for time is the second not the hour. So if you want to be all snobby about it you really should be talking about Joules per meter or perhaps meters per Joule. I personally like MPGe because it really sends the message to non-technical people that electric cars are very, very efficient. Don’t you want the average person to get this message about EV efficiency?

· · 3 years ago

I can only hope Nissan has the foresight to train their sales staff in the different testing methods and what they mean, because a potential customer is bound to ask what's up with the conflicting range claims. They're really going to have to impress upon people that how you drive is MUCH more important than it is with gasoline cars, and explain how these numbers were generated and why they are different. I think they would ideally work that into their printed advertising/showroom brochures.

· · 3 years ago

I think new EPA label looks very good!

Leaf still uses energy but about twice less than the best Hybrid - Prius so it makes sense that LEAF MPG equivalent is about twice better - 99 MPG.

73 Miles range is also very good because it is the worse driving conditions. Otherwise there will be lots of disappointment when people get 60 miles when they expected 100 miles.

· · 3 years ago

Looks like the volt will get 35 all-electric miles on their EPA sticker and 93 MPGe. That's 4 miles better than I got out of it!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

I have heard that the full charge at 240V, takes up to 8-9 hours and it gives a 100 miles range, it has also a 480V charge option that takes only 30 minutes to charge full.

· · 3 years ago

I don't see how regen would matter in the question of how big the LEAF pack is. Regen just decreases the energy/mile, leading to a longer range. The product stays the same.

I pointed out this same point a week or two ago. I demand my brownie point!

· · 3 years ago

35 miles range for Volt and 73 miles for Leaf. The numbers seems to be about right. Volt has 16 kW· battery but is restricted (in software) to use only 10.4 kW·h of this capacity. Leaf has 24 kW· battery but still probably uses less than 100% of it. So ranges are about right.

· Michael (not verified) · 3 years ago

Jim1961 was right. Nissan claimed 100 miles per charge, and it came out to only 73, 27% lower. GM claimed 40 for the Volt, and it came out to 35, 12% lower. Even lugging around an engine the Volt came out to 93 mpg-e, while the Leaf was 99 mpg-e. Anyone who has owned a laptop computer for any length of time, knows those ranges are going to drop over time. The big surprise will be the range people get (or don't get) at highway speeds, with the A/C or heater on. It really plummets the faster you go, and most people are use to driving 70-75 mph.

I saw both at the LA Auto Show, and both are intriguing. The Honda Fit Electric, and the Mitsubishi i-meiv (dumb name) paled in comparison.

I can drive 200 miles in a day for my job, so the Volt is a no-brainer.

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

anyone know the storage capacity of the Leafs battery pack in kWh ?

· · 3 years ago

Nate: The LEAF has a 24kWH pack. It is comprised of 48 modules, each made up of 4 cells. Nissan hasn't revealed just how much of the pack is usable(at least I have never seen it) but it is suspected they use a high percentage of it, perhaps as high as 90% which is more than what most other manufacturers seem willing to use.

· · 3 years ago

I vaguely remember Mark Perry of Nissan telling me that LEAF uses a lot of the battery--maybe 90 percent or so.

· · 3 years ago

Brad, when you, Zach and Myself drove the LEAF down Lombard street for the first time ever, Mark Perry told us that it could use up to 95% of the battery in extreme cases.

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

thanks so much guys ! another question for you all ! this one is tougher...if the Leafs energy storage capacity is 24 kWh and the EPA says that it's range (maximum miles it will go on fully charged pack) is 73 miles per charge....then...based on the EPA figure of 73 miles per charge (I understand that # varies from reading Nick's website- it could be over 100 depending on how you drive it ;) but based on that # (73) and it's energy capacity of 24 kWh - Does anyone know how to calculate the AVERAGE number of kilowatt-hours of electrical energy consumed by the Leaf per mile driven ?

· · 3 years ago

Nick, that's what I was remembering. But I'm old so I didn't remember it clearly.

Nate, general rule is 4 miles per kWh. Drive carefully and you'll do better.

· · 3 years ago

Brad, EVNow has reported that Leaf drivers seem to be averaging less than 4 miles/kWh:

"I think most people are closer to 3.3 (or lower) than 4 m/kwh."

· · 3 years ago

@dp - Thanks for correction. I was too generous. I suppose I was thinking about EVs in general, but even then, 4 m/kWh might be aspirational. I've driven the Think, Smart ED, and Mitsu i in the past month. I need to doublecheck all my notes, but even those small EVs fell short of 4 m/kWh--more in the 3.0 to 3.5 range. Is it time to change my rule of thumb?

· · 3 years ago

Brad, old? Hardly. You may have started exhibiting a bit of fuddy-duddyism, but old? No!

The exact conversation in the LEAF that day went something like this:

Brad: "So Mark, what's the total usable capacity of the battery pack, 80%?"
Mark: "Higher."
Nick: "90%?"
Mark: "Higher."
Nick: "95%?"
Mark: "That's the ballpark."
Brad: "So you're telling us that the LEAF can use 95% of its total 24 kWh battery capacity?"
Mark: "In some extreme circumstances, yes."

And yes, most LEAF drivers who aren't trying hard to maximize range are getting about 3-3.3 m/kWh, although if you try just a bit and plan your routes well, it's not hard to get 4-4.5 m/kWh. Also if you have drives that don't use the highway (greater than 60 mph) but aren't a lot of stop and go (30-55 mph), your range will be on that higher end no matter how you drive.

· · 3 years ago

The problem is that it's too fun to drive fast in an EV--especially for me after feather-footing in a hybrid for years.

But...I'll know about high and low efficiency limits first hand starting later today. That's right. Three hours and counting until I pick up my LEAF. I'll post on it next week.

· · 3 years ago

Sweet!!!

· · 3 years ago

Brad, I'm envious! I'm hopeful that the cold weather version of the Leaf will be available in my area by late 2012 (even if I have to tow it across the mountains from Denver). Ideally, I'd like to buy a Tennessee Leaf if they get the new plant up and running by then.

Have fun with your new toy...

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

ok...this might be more of a physics question for everyone ! lol...Although Nissan hasn't advertised it, other sources report that the Leaf can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds. Assuming THIS data is correct, What is the AVERAGE acceleration of the Leaf in m/s/s ? (meters per second squared)

anyone ? ;)

· · 3 years ago

Nate,

Try this one on for size:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=a%3D%28convert+60+mph+to+m%2Fs%29%2...

In the calculation above a=m/s/s and the total change in velocity (60 mph) has been converted to m/s. Divide that by the total change in time to reach 60 mph (9.9s) and you get your acceleration in m/s/s.

Wolfram Alpha is a great tool for that sort of thing. BTW, result is 2.709 m/s/s.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

I've always been told to run a battery down to nearly out-of-power before charging so that the battery does not "memorize" a partially reduced power level as new "depleted" capacity. As a potential Leaf owner, should I plan on trying to discharge the batteries as much as possible before charging?

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

wow Nick...are you a genius or something ? lol ...wait...so...the answer is 2.709 meters per second squared ? or do I need to divide 2.709 by 9.9 ? errr never thought trying to figure the Leafs average acceleration would be so difficult !

· · 3 years ago

The answer is 2.709 meters per second squared.

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

Nick
Do you happen to know the MASS of the leaf...I know the weight is 3500 lbs...any idea what it's mass is ? in kg ?

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

actually- In researching the Leaf- I'm not sure it is 3500 lbs...now I'm reading it might be less than that...like 3370 or something ?

· nate (not verified) · 3 years ago

ok- found a conversion chart...I think the mass of the leaf is 1529 kg- add 75kg for an average human and the mass is approx 1604 kg

sound about right ?

· · 3 years ago

@Anonymous,
That rule for battery use applied to Nickel based batteries (NiMH and NiCD). The Leaf has Lithium-Ion batteries which do not have the "memory" problem. In fact, generally with Li-ion batteries you're best charging them whenever you can. They really don't want to be fully discharged or stored close-to empty.
This will make your Leaf always ready to go so it is much more convenient than the old NiMH EV1.

· · 3 years ago

@Brad "I need to doublecheck all my notes, but even those small EVs fell short of 4 m/kWh--more in the 3.0 to 3.5 range. Is it time to change my rule of thumb?"

That depends on what m/kwh we are talking about. My statement that dgpcolorado referenced earlier (3.3 m/kwh) was for wall to wheels. A lot of us get more than 4 m/kwh from battery to wheels (or whatever Leaf shows on its dash). My lifetime avg is 4.1 mpkwh.

Now, getting back to the age old question of the battery capacity of Leaf. We all know Nissan keeps saying 24kwh without clearly mentioning whether it is the nominal (total) capacity or the "usable".

Some resourceful guys in the Leaf forum measured the battery capacity using Nissan't equipment - it is about 27 kwh total. I've been doing some head-scratching about the usable capacity. From various reports (using kwh used to recharge after turtle and miles travelled / m per kwh shown by leaf etc), I think Leaf uses between 21 and 22 kwh. That makes it 80% of the total capacity.

· · 3 years ago

@EVNow - Thanks for the post. Seems like 80% is a good common sense figure that balances range and life. Regarding efficiency, I've won a couple of hybrid hypermiling contests and I bet I could push the envelope on m/kWh on my LEAF...But I find myself driving faster than ever have in my whole life. It's just way too much damn fun to silently speed down the road (safely of course) and know that I'm still consuming so much less "fuel" (at about 3.2 m/kWh) than every other car around me. Over time, I might get over how smooth and sporty the LEAF is, but for now, I'm just enjoying. (You have to realize that I've been driving gas-hybrids for the past eight years with a very gentle foot.)

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