A little over twenty years ago, owning an electric car meant that you had to be at least a little nerdy when it came to computers, battery packs, and basic electronics. At least, you had to be if you wanted to make sure your car had as long and as a healthy existence as possible.
That’s because before the days of production electric cars, before the days even of revolutionary vehicles like the GM EV1, Ford Ranger EV and Toyota RAV4 EV (to name a few) the overwhelming majority of electric cars were either produced in small volume by niche automakers or were in fact conversions of gasoline cars carried out by individuals or dedicated EV conversion shops. As well as make sure your car’s batteries (usually lead acid) were healthy, owners needed to be comfortable reading a voltmeter, understand how to calculate range from rudimentary gauges, and (when necessary) carry out regular checks on each battery to make sure it was in peak condition. With lead acid batteries having a useful lifespan of anything from two to four years, many owners even learned how to carry out regular battery replacement as part of their ownership experience.
Today with modern battery chemistry and modern battery management systems, there’s thankfully no technical prerequisite to owning an electric car. Indeed, just as internal combustion engine vehicles have become easier to own and require much less owner maintenance than they once did, today’s modern electric car is far easier to own than its ancestors were. Add to this the fact that most electric cars on the market today clearly display predicted range and charging information in an easy-to-understand way, and there’s really no need to get technical with your electric car unless you want to.
Which is where LEAF Spy comes in, an app for Android and iOS devices that allows you to connect your smartphone to your Nissan LEAF electric car (with the help of an affordable OBDII bluetooth or wifi adaptor) to see far more information than Nissan’s stock on-board displays can display. And while it’s perfectly fine to rely on Nissan’s in-car displays to help you figure out how far you can travel before your car needs a recharge, LEAF Spy adds a whole new level of granularity that gives you far more information about what’s really going on in your electric car’s battery pack.
In addition to screens that allow you to track energy consumption, charging cycles and even individual module battery voltages, LEAF Spy (and its associated apps LEAF Spy Lite and LEAF Spy Pro) also let you calculate how many miles your car has until empty using a user-selectable distance-per-kilowatt hour (or watt-hours per unit distance) energy efficiency.
Then there’s a whole host of other features that go beyond simply helping you drive more efficiently: buy the Leaf Spy or Leaf Spy Pro app, and you can do a whole lot more than just check on your car’s state of charge to the nearest one tenth of a percent. There’s journey logging (using the GPS built into your smartphone), as well as tools to let you read tire pressure, pair new tire pressure monitors (useful if you have a set of summer and winter tires) and read diagnostic troubleshooting codes.
While not every LEAF owner will even want such functionality, the latter — as well as capability to change door-lock behavior, interior light behavior and headlight operation — means that you should visit your dealership far less frequently. Even if you’re not technically minded, the way the app is put together — combined with this comprehensive guide on its use — should make it a must for anyone who wants to ensure their Nissan LEAF is used to its fullest potential.
Disclaimer: This primer discusses a commercially-available app that the author has been a long-time beta tester for. We should clarify however that the author has no ulterior motive in writing this primer, other than sharing details of an app she has found useful for many years.
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