Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Has Nissan made a mistake? By putting most of their eggs in the LEAF basket that is? It was marketed as the first full production highway capable EV that was affordable and it very much is all that especially when many current or potential EV drivers say they need about 25 more miles of range?
But to reduce costs to keep it within reach (albeit after government subsidies) of most consumers, they passed on temperature management of the battery pack which would have helped maintain range during the winter as the batteries are better able to take a charge when its warmer than when its cold. Temperature management would have also slowed degradation due to excessive Summertime heat suffered by people who dont have colder winters
So it appears that Nissan's decision has hurt LEAF owners in the warmer climates and owners who experience moderate to severe winters. That does not leave a whole lot left. So, exactly how functional is the LEAF when considering the loss of what is already a limited range?
According to the EPA, the LEAF should take you about 73 miles on a full charge assumeing that charge is on a new battery pack that is at about room temperature. Well, its EPA and one can easily beat that will a minimal change in driving habits. I plan on 80-85 miles even with A/C running. In winter with climate controls, that range can be more like 70 and if cold enough, make that 50-60 miles and this is with a new battery pack.
So what happens when the pack is not so new? and its cold and the range is now 40 miles? Well, I might be answering that question very soon. I am heading into my 3rd winter with the LEAF and our longest regular commute is 64 miles roundtrip. The weather has just recently turned cold and the LEAF is sitting in a parking lot as I type halfway on its 64 mile trip
I mean like "40 miles??" what can anyone do with that? Well that number is a bit interesting since it is still more than the 38 miles that is traveled daily by an average American. But what does that mean anyway? because 38 miles is not very much for me or a lot of people I know. Now is that daily average based on 38 miles * 7 days/week or 266 miles a week or 13,700 miles a year? What about people who drive 45 miles a day 5 days a week and only a little on weekends?
Either way; the ability to drive 40 miles at a time can be very restrictive. Now, the other thing I have to mention is that most of the people I know dont drive more than that. My sister drives about 16 miles a day (in her 20 mpg SUV she cant afford to go any farther!) after quiting her much higher paying job 20 miles away and taking one in the town she lives in. My in-laws both long time Olympia area residents also have under 5 mile commutes having moved back from Rochester (about 18 miles away) about 5 years ago. Ya see, they moved because the thought of a big yard, cheap house was attractive to them but it did not take long before they realized that the extra 15-20 minutes each way was simply not worth the trouble.
But I am not in that situation. My SO drives 64 miles RT for her job in Centrailia but we are easily able to drive that (she did it last night but plugged in the car before I got home from work so I dont know how much charge was left but she claims it was about 10 miles of range and she drove 64.6 miles with defrost running on the way home) averaging around 60 mph. Add to that the DCFC in Centrailia and Tumwater that can add 30 miles of range in 10 minutes and we are set for quite a while.
Now the real challenge is getting people to realize that they dont need that much range all the time.