First Full Range Test of Nissan LEAF Yields 116.1 Miles

By · October 21, 2010

Nick Chambers with Nissan LEAF at the Jack Daniels distillery

Most regular PluginCars.com readers know that Nissan's quoted range for the LEAF is about 100 miles. But as Nissan has said—and as many regular EV drivers know—the total range of an electric vehicle can vary quite dramatically based on how the car is driven.

For instance, if you drove a Nissan LEAF uphill at 80 miles an hour with the A/C cranking full blast and five large adults in the car, you might only get 45 miles of range out of its battery. Alternatively, if you drove a steady 45 miles an hour over a completely flat route on a 60 degree day with no climate control, you might see as many as 135 miles of range. But still, none of that truly tells you what you could see during real world driving.

After today, I can tell you with unwavering certainty that the LEAF can obtain at least 100 miles of range in the real world—because Nissan let me loose in their baby to be the first automotive reporter on the planet to conduct a total range test, from a fully topped off battery to almost completely empty.

Nissan LEAF dash showing 116.1 miles on a single charge

The numbers tell the story: 116.1 miles on a single charge. I averaged 5.1 miles per kWh.

The chosen course took me from Nissan's North American headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., to the famous Jack Daniel's distillery and back—a total distance of 116.1 miles. The drive covered varied terrain and speeds, from gently rolling topography on roads that went through towns with stoplights and 30 miles per hour zones, to byways with 55 miles per hour top speeds. I didn't drive aggressively and I did spend most of the time going five miles per hour under the posted speed limits, but we had the A/C on for much of the trip. It wasn't like I was driving like an obsessed hypermiler.

Okay, so maybe that last 15 miles—when it got a little tense—I did drive 10 miles under the posted speed limit and likely upset a few other drivers. (Sorry folks! It was all in the name of science.) But in the end, I went 116.1 miles with room to spare.

Driving Notes

Unless you are completely disengaged from the driving experience, it's very unlikely that you'll fail to notice all the warnings the LEAF sends out as your battery is getting low. From warning lights in two different places, to flashing numbers on the main screen, to the navigation system audibly speaking to you and asking you if you want to be routed to the nearest charging station, there's no way you'd be caught surprised. Also, although I didn't cause it to activate myself, the LEAF will go into what's called "Turtle" mode if you really get down to your last bit of usable juice and start progressively limiting your top speed and acceleration rate to try and get you to that charge station.

Nissan LEAF low battery warning message
Nissan LEAF low battery warning message

The Nissan LEAF doesn't allow you to get surprised by a low battery.

I averaged about 5.1 miles driven per kWh (see first dash photo above). If you do the back calculations, that means the LEAF let me use about 22.76 kW of its total 24 kWh battery, a utilization rate of about 94.9 percent. In the past, Nissan has told me that they allow 95% utilization, so I really did push the car to its limits.

As the first person to really push the LEAF to its limits in the real world for all to see. It'll be interesting to see what others can do with it and what real world situations over a variety of conditions do to the range. But for now, it's satisfying to know that even without being crazy about hypermiling, the LEAF can pull it off.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.