Staff Car Report: After 58,000 Miles, 3 Years, Nissan LEAF Still Goes the Distance

Here at Transport Evolved, we don’t just cover the world of green plug-in vehicles and advanced transportation technologies, we live it too. So when the time came this week to make a 552-mile round trip in our 2011 Nissan LEAF, it seemed like the perfect time to see just how well our LEAF performs with just 82 per cent of its original battery capacity.

Even at 58,676 miles and one capacity bar lost, 74 miles is still possible on a single charge.

Even at 58,676 miles and one capacity bar lost, 74 miles is still possible on a single charge.

To our surprise, our LEAF fared better than we expected, carrying us more than 74 miles on a single charge without a problem.

We won’t bore you with the minutia of our trip, but our 552-mile journey, from Bristol in the West of England to Norwich in the East meant that we’d be stopping multiple times en-route to rapid-charge at the ever-increasing number of rapid charging stations being installed by utility company Ecotricity

With more than 58,000 miles on the clock, our LEAF has started to show signs of battery capacity loss and was among one of the first cars in the UK to lose one of its twelve capacity bars, meaning its range is substantially less now than it was when new.

For the most part, our route took us past a charging station on average every 50 miles or so, well within the range of our ageing Nissan LEAF. In our everyday experience, 50 miles is easily achievable at everyday speeds, but going any further does require a little attention to energy usage, so we’ll admit to feeling a little apprehensive about the final segment of our journey: a 74-mile trek from Birmingham back to Bristol yesterday evening, leaving the last functioning DC quick charger before Bristol with a 90 per cent charge and a heavy rush-hour to contend with.

To play it safe, we kept the speed a little lower than we’d prefer at 50 mph, making use of the slow lane alongside various trucks and busses rather than attempt to rush to our destination. Because it was a warm 27 degrees Celsius outside, we kept the LEAF’s pre-cooled air conditioning running intermittently during the trip, occasionally opening the windows when hitting heavier traffic.

Our route did help us a little thanks to a net elevation drop of around 135 meters.

Our route did help us a little thanks to a net elevation drop of around 135 meters.

We arrived safely at our destination with around 20 per cent of the car’s battery pack remaining, and the low battery warning light just illuminated. According to the car’s on-board range prediction software, there was enough battery power left to drive an additional 7 miles.

Add that to the 74 miles we travelled, and we’re left with an 81-mile range at 50 miles per hour from a 90 per cent charge of a battery pack now at 82 per cent of its original capacity.  Our total net elevation change along the route according to Google Earth was -135 meters, made up from a total elevation gain of 193 meters, and a total elevation loss of 329 meters, so perhaps gravity helped our endeavours a little.

While the trip wasn’t necessarily as quick as other portions of our trip — where we’d kept a constant 70 mph with little or no regard to the battery pack’s state of charge — the ageing LEAF’s battery pack had managed what must be its longest continuous drive without recharging for several months.

What does this tell us? While our staff car Nissan LEAF certainly has lost a fair bit of its original battery capacity after three and a half years and 58,676 miles, it’s still possible — with a little bit of forethought — to push the limits of range when you need to and even beat its original EPA range (73 miles) at the sacrifice of a little speed.

Our advice though? While it’s possible to push an older car with aged battery pack moderate distances on a full or almost full charge, it’s far less nerve-wracking to plan in a couple of extra recharging stops so you don’t get range anxiety. Even if you’ve got the kind of miles on the clock we have in our car, range anxiety is still a real worry.

(If you’re interested in the geekier side of our trip, here are the LEAF Spy .csv logs from our return trip yesterday, along with details of our final quick charge.)

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