First Nissan LEAF Experiences: 75 MPH Highway Driving Provides 60 Miles of Range

By · December 15, 2010

Olivier on Day One

It’s been four days since Olivier Chalouhi became the world’s first owner of the all-electric Nissan LEAF. Since that time, he’s been logging miles and recording his experiences on the owner website. I combed through the past few days of entries, and pulled the most interesting discoveries.

Olivier is having a great time with the car. “It's way more comfortable than my wife's [Honda] Fit, accelerates better, is much more silent, way better equipped,” he writes. The lack of noise gives a perception of lower speed, but in reality the LEAF moves faster down the road. Olivier believes that ECO mode is “way less fun than regular.” It makes the car feel more like a “regular car,” but Olivier doesn’t mind using it in the city (presumably to conserve battery power).

Apparently, the biggest disappointment has been range. He writes, “If you want to cruise on the highway at 75+ mph, then you should not hope to get more than 50-60 miles of range, with light climate control.” The range indicator quickly changes in response to conditions. When Olivier left on one trip with a full battery, the dash said 96 miles left, but as soon as he turned on climate control, it dropped to around 85. It works the opposite way as well. He left on one nighttime trip with 82 miles of range left, and returned home with the same amount, despite having driven 10 miles.

Brisk highway driving is definitely a range-killer. “My current feeling is that at 75 mph, with light climate control, you'll be looking at a range in between 55 and 65 [miles].” As a result, Olivier is not recommending the car for those with a daily commute which has more than 25 miles on the highway each way and are used to driving slightly above speed limits. (Note: Olivier feels confident that driving at 65 mph, still highway speed, would provide enough confidence for a 30 to 35 mile daily commute.)

He’s using one of the two default setting for charge limits: 100% and 80%—currently preferring the 80% setting (which extends the life of the battery) during the week, and 100% for Friday through Saturday, to be ready for more driving on the weekends.

Final notes for now:

  • No carpool lane sticker yet. They can only be ordered with the arrival of license plates.
  • Bluetooth connection is great—the “best communication experience you’ll experience”
  • Visibility to the back has been fine, but he finds the front pillars “annoying,” especially when taking a right turn on red.

I’ll do my best to keep an eye on Olivier’s progress, and plan to directly reach out to him and the other first drivers.

Update: I added "75 MPH" to the headline to clearly state that the shorter range results from highway speeds that exceed the legal limit.

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