Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

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Flying planes, launching rockets, buying tech and driving a Leaf

An Assisted Driving Nissan Leaf?

This report is from earlier this year, but as we inch closer to an announcement about the 2018 Nissan Leaf, this CleanTechnica article certainly adds to the excitement surrounding the Gen 2 version.

The second generation of the Nissan LEAF will feature the company’s ProPilot technology — allowing for autonomous travel on highways under many circumstances — according to Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Nissan Executive and the Future Range of the Leaf

Nissan IDS concept image.

Nissan IDS concept image.

Kazuo Yajima, head of electric vehicles for Nissan and Renault, recently discussed the electric range expectations for the new Leaf and future vehicles on the Japanese automaker’s electric platform, as reported by Electrek.   Look for the 2018 Leaf to cross the 200 mile range barrier and have a new form factor for the first time.  (Read more here)

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

The Next Nissan Leaf?

In an article just published on the web site electrek.co we may be getting a first real world sneak peek at the next version of the Nissan Leaf.  Despite being camouflaged, the car has some clearly new design points that look to be based on a concept IDS design.  Nissan expects to reveal the Next Gen Leaf (2018 model) in September of 2017 with sales soon after.  Click here to read more.

Other sites showing images of the next Leaf include:

AutoCar.co.uk

GreenCarReports.com

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Learning A Lot About Electric Range

When I first got my Leaf, I concentrated heavily on how my driving style, techniques and car settings affected my range.  The more AC, more heat, more lead foot driving and jack-rabbit starts, the lower the range.  So it was a great learning curve and fun to watch the accumulating data.

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Then one beautiful spring day I needed to make a round trip up into New Hampshire.  The range of the trip was right near the edge of my 80 mile comfort zone.  So I planned a route that would take me near several charging options, mostly near the start of the trip, with the same ones on my route near the end.  And I also planned the trip using the ECO setting on the Leaf's navigation, which took me somewhat away from charging opportunities... but I knew it would be easy enough to switch routes if necessary.

It turns out that the real beauty of this plan was that I was able to experience the effect ECO routes would have on mileage.  It was an amazing trip in that regard. 

For the first time I was taking a long trip but wasn't in a hurry and so this route called for an average speed of maybe 40 miles per hour.  And that was the beauty of the trip, fast enough but not too fast.

I got to my destination with slightly more than half of my predicted range left.  The event was a party, celebrating the change a good friend was making in his life and while enjoying myself I went over the trip home in my head.  I figured I would start taking the ECO route, but if necessary, transition to the less-ECO route  charging options, near the end of my journey.  That would give me some safety in case things looked like they were getting close.

So I headed out and kept my eye on the GOM just to have a sense of how I was doing.  What started to become clear was  that based on my driving speed and the mild temperatures, it looked like I might get home without stopping. This was pleasantly surprising but I knew it was within the envelope of possibility.

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As the trip neared completion and the GOM indicated less and less miles available, it was still safely within the range of arriving at home with energy remaining.  I did frequently make use of the Leaf's steering wheel button showing the remaining range on a map.  But in the end it was never really in doubt, and as it turned out this was a record-setting trip for me.  It was the first and only single-charge, 100+ mile day for me in my Leaf.  Pretty cool and a great learning experience, about range.

 

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Our First Trip That Required a Charge

Our fun fall trip in the Nissan Leaf.

Our fun fall trip in the Nissan Leaf.

In the fall of 2013, after driving our Leaf on mostly local trips for several months, plans started coming together for a trip that would require one stop for charging.  This was an exciting proposition and added a bit of a range “thrill” to what had quickly become predictable driving.  We have a second car that uses gas but it seemed like a fun challenge to try to plan a longer trip in the Leaf.

 

Being a pilot, once we committed to going, I threw myself into serious preflight planning, doing as much research as possible to feel comfortable with the equipment and the “mission.”

 

Our trip would be about 95 miles (of road travel) from the Boston area to Martha’s Vineyard, just outside the likely comfortable range of a highway driven Leaf.  Another factor to consider was that the family would be along, so taking too many risks with range was out of the question.  In addition I had to count on using climate control should it become necessary.  (There’s a whole other post waiting to be written about being a hyper-miler in a family of normal people.)

 

The Carwings online system is a great place to start planning, offering the ability to plan your trip, including routes, distances and the possible need to charge along the way.  It also takes into account things like terrain, and incorporates data acquired from other owners making the same trip.  Some trips of course don't have prior data, but often there is some good information.

 

There are also apps that show public charging station locations but it’s worth noting that not all sites or apps have the same information and not all of the information is current.  So it’s always worth confirming data from a number of different locations.

 

Anyway, because the trip was a little too long, I looked for opportunities to charge along our usual route and there was a cluster of charging options near Bridgewater, MA (about 35 miles into the trip.)  After that, the next opportunity would be on Cape Cod itself, just over the bridge at a Nissan dealer.  The stations near Bridgewater were at a 99's Restaurant or a Chili's and we chose the Chili's because it is within walking distance of a Lowes (since we needed to entertain kids while charging for around an hour.  That’s why waiting until the Nissan dealer was out…just not much to do at a car dealership if you’re a kid.

 

I also liked that we had several charging options in that same location, because you can't guarantee that the chargers will be available when you get there. Another route offered a few charging stations at a mall, but was many miles out of the way.

 

So that was the calculus for the decision we made to stop where we did.  I did the math and knew how much charging we would need to make it to our destination with a good comfort zone.  Hearing from some experienced Leaf drivers, I learned that the car takes longer to fill at the top end of the battery than the bottom.  As you near full, things slow down a bit.  This was unfortunate in our case because we were forced to charge early in our trip, meaning an inefficient use of our charging time.  But it was what it was.

The car charging at Chili's.

The car charging at Chili's.

 

The bottom line on the math, we needed to leave Chili's with more than 80 miles estimated range and hit the Bourne Bridge with 40 miles estimated range or better.  The departure number at Chili's would ensure the second number, but the second number was guidance for deciding whether or not to stop at the Nissan dealership (a mile south of the bridge) as a back-up.

 

Anyway, all went well.  The trip required highway driving, but the time of year and good weather meant that climate control was not necessary and the batteries were not terribly cold or hot.

 

That day, because of some local morning driving I had to do before leaving (which I could not re-fill fast enough to bother), we left home with 12 miles less than full.  We charged for an hour and a half at Chili's and left there with 91 miles estimated range (a very comfortable margin.)  We hit the bridge with 50 miles left (higher than 40 so no stop at Nissan) and had 37 miles estimated at the ferry.  Got to our destination on Martha’s Vineyard with 27 miles still in the “tank,” so the data and planning were right on.

The Leaf on the ferry.  Got a spot right up front!

The Leaf on the ferry.  Got a spot right up front!

 

Ran into a little challenge charging where we were staying.  This was mostly because it was tricky finding a 20amp circuit and had never been in a situation where the amps on a circuit might be an issue.  But that problem was quickly solved and all went well.  The trip home was a duplicate in reverse and as before, proper planning made everything seem effortless.


More to come!

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Impact of Winter Driving on Energy Economy

Here is a chart.  It was generated by the CarWings web interface (which is a web data acquisition and reporting site that comes with your Leaf.  It's the back end of the Leaf's data reporting architecture.)  I mention CarWings because I know there are people with more expertise about the various ways one can measure Energy Economy with an electric car.  I'm not yet smart enough to wade into that discussion.  But I can use a web site to generate a chart.  

And like I said, here is a chart.

First 10 months energy economy with my 2013 Nissan Leaf.

First 10 months energy economy with my 2013 Nissan Leaf.

The bars represent miles driven by month.  And the line represents energy economy in miles/kWh per month.  One thing to note at first is that in October we took a very long trip in the Leaf which I have yet to write about here.  That explains the one large bar compared with other months.  I should also point out that I combined two charts to make this one since CarWings only reports by day, month or calendar year.  So if you see some odd graphic aberrations, that can be attributed to my Photoshop skills and being in a hurry.

 

The main story, coming on the heels of my last post is that winter cold weather driving does significantly affect energy economy.  Prior to October, I was holding a solid mid 4 miles/kWh average.  Something line a 4.5 or 6.  In fact as you can see, I didn't have a month below 4 until December.  But since then I've only managed to stay in the 3's and I've seen my rolling average since ownership go from a 4.5 to a 4.0.  I am working hard to keep my daily averages near a 4 to try to prevent my overall from dipping into the 3s.  I know, it's a silly game with myself, but it is a game in the service of energy efficiency so I can live with that.

 

I am interested to see where I end up in June as I come around to one full year of ownership.  My goal of course is to keep things above 4, but the longer I go the harder it is to affect that number either way.  I will provide an update here at the end of June.  Until then, I'm keeping the heater off as much as I can and watching my driving habits.

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Winter Driving and Conditions

With the 2014 winter season slowly winding down here in New England, I can safely focus some comments on how it was to drive a Leaf in the winter.  This was the first winter season with my Leaf and it went very very well.  

Our Leaf with remnant, non-melted snow still on the hood.

Our Leaf with remnant, non-melted snow still on the hood.

The car I traded in for my Leaf had an all-wheel drive of sorts and I had put snow tires on it.  I did this after a few rough slippery seasons when I had trouble getting up our driveway.  I made the financially conservative decision this year to see how the Leaf would do in the snow, before committing to snow tires, and boy was that a good idea!  

I should tell you that as winters go this was a little above average for snow and overall a pretty cold one.  And the Leaf with factory tires did great!  Even in heavily slushy conditions I was able to get appropriate and necessary traction, and that pesky driveway was never a problem.  Now I should say that I didn't head out when the roads were untreated or during the heavier parts of the storms.  But considering the conditions and being as prudent as one should be in the winter, there was never a day when I was trapped by the snow when others could drive their cars.  It was a normal winter for me.  

I think some of that has to do with the weight of the Leaf, which generally seems to help traction. But whatever the reason, if you live in snowy climates, do not fear getting and driving a Leaf.  It's a great winter car.  (Need I mention the remote pre-heating and the quickly hot electric heat and the heated seats and steering wheel?)  And one thing worth pointing out, that is wonderfully unique for a car living in the snow... the snow on the hood never melts, that is unless the sun melts it or you clear it off.  It's a funny and highly unusual thing to see.

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Winter Driving and Range

Since the last time I posted here, which was sadly a long time ago, a lot has happened with the Leaf.  Mostly I would say that a degree of normalcy has set in.  It has become quite normal to drive an electric car and I mean that in a very good way.  Any initial range anxiety has gone by the boards, and the concern about calculations for distance and range is mostly a thing of the past.

At one of 10 newly installed charging stations near a local supermarket.  Needless to say we go here a lot.

At one of 10 newly installed charging stations near a local supermarket.  Needless to say we go here a lot.

I've decided to play a bit of catch-up here by posting a few of the events from the months since my last post and try to return to some regular observations about driving and owning a Leaf.  My hope in all of this is to let people who might be interested in owning and driving and electric car, know what it's like.

OK, so it's been winter here in New England and a few key topics come to mind.  Yes, it's true that using the heater really cuts into fuel economy.  Prior to the dead of winter, back when I was never using heat, I had been maintaining a 4.5 miles/kWh.  Since December (and I'm writing this in early March) I'm averaging 3.6 at best.  My average since I got the car has now dropped to just above 4.0 which I am hoping to maintain until the warmer weather gets here, but it is likely I'll drop below 4 before then.

Any way, it's true that winter is harder than summer for getting the most miles out of your charge.  Next time I'll write a bit about winter driving itself.

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Driving My Leaf Is Like Flying

As I've driven around in my Nissan Leaf during these first few months of ownership, I find myself comparing the car to other experiences.  It seemed like an informative series of posts, to explain those comparisons running through my head.  Up first is this idea…

...that driving my Leaf is a lot like flying.

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For you pilots out there, I expect you'll get my drift pretty quickly.. resource management.  For those of you who are not pilots, I hope this blog post will still be informative.  And if you've found this article while considering an electric vehicle, hopefully it will give you some idea of how the process can change the way you think about driving.

So to start I could mention the wonderful feeling you get driving the Leaf.  At times it almost feels like you're gliding, and of course that could be compared with flying.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

As a pilot, it's up to you to manage all aspect of your flight and that starts well before you even arrive at the airport with something called preflight planning.  You begin to think about things like; how far am I going?, what will the weather conditions be?, what route should I take?, how much fuel will I need?, how much cargo can I bring? etc.  In the air, like with electric cars, there aren't a lot of places to get additional fuel, so you can't afford to run out at the wrong time.  In a plane that can mean an emergency landing.  In an electric car that can mean sitting by the side of the road until a tow truck arrives.

So like flying, driving an electric car involves a lot of pre-drive planning or answering a lot of questions.

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How many miles will I need to drive until I can charge again?  What is the estimated range of my car assuming a normal drive and a normal weather day?  Now, what are the conditions for the driving I plan to do?  (More uphill means more energy used.  The same with a lot of head wind.)  How hot or cold is it out?  (Or how much air conditioning or heating will I need to do, thus using more energy for something other than moving the wheels over the ground.)  How much highway driving will I be doing etc?

Now many of these considerations begin to become second nature as you live with your EV, but they are now part of the equation as you distance yourself from the readily available gas you're used to.  So you may not dwell on them everyday, but you will think about them a bit as you plan.

Nissan has something in their Carwings program that allows you to plan a trip and estimate energy consumption based on the route.  It will tell you the amount of energy other drivers have used the make the same trip taking into account terrain and distance.  So far I have found this planner to be fairly accurate and a helpful tool.  (By the way, it also will let you send the route to the car for the GPS to use on the trip.)

Weather is a huge part of flying and to a lesser extent driving an electric vehicle.  Heavy winds can have some effect on energy efficiency as can rain and snow not to mention the environmental adjustments you need to make in the cabin which burn power.  So just like flying 100 miles into a headwind, you have to account for weather a bit when planning an EV trip.

Finally a good pilot doesn't go into the air if he or she feels there is a risk that the flight cannot end safely due to any number of factors.  Similarly, several times, our family has considered taking the Leaf on a trip which would take it near the edge of its comfortable range.  Not a safety issue, but more about the completion of the trip without ending up at the side of the road.  However, once we ran the numbers we decided to use our other car which has an internal combustion engine.  Discretion is the better part of valor, and that is true when managing the factors of driving electric.

Now certainly a lot of range issues will go away as over time more high speed chargers are installed along our common long distance routes.  But for now, this is our reality.  Careful consideration of the distance planned and the energy it will take to make it on that route and on that day.

It's a lot like flying for sure and in its own way, the Leaf flies.  Just at zero feet AGL.

 

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

Turning In my Last ICE Car

For about a month now I've been exclusively driving my new Nissan Leaf and loving every minute of it.  And because of timing delays, my previous car, a gasoline powered high performance vehicle sat in the driveway unused.  It's funny but I never really wanted to drive it again after making the switch.

Leaf.JPG

Today the time finally came to turn in the old car and fully move on.  It was an odd experience getting back into the seat of my gas engine car.  This one was even more old school with a manual transmission no less.  So there was a half hour drive to the dealer to think about the change sitting in my old car.

First,  I was surprised at how firm the steering was compared with my Leaf.  Of course it billed itself as a sports-type car, so I assume that the steering was made to be more firm.  And I had driven it like that, and had enjoyed it for several years.  But when compared with the easy steering in the Leaf, and the overall lighter floating feeling of driving the Leaf, I didn't like how it felt as I drove it to the dealer.  That comparison would probably have been true with any sporty steering vehicle, but it still left me looking forward to getting behind the wheel of my Leaf again.

The other major change, besides eliminating the use of gasoline completely was that for years I had been driving manual transmissions.  I'm one of those people who just loves shifting gears and I was worried that when I climbed back into my old car I would be reminded how much I miss it.  But although it was fun to drive a stick again after a month off, I didn't miss it enough to regret my decision.  I'll drive a stick again from time to time, but I can honestly say that I don't mind the change if it means driving a great car like the Leaf.

So I arrived at the dealer and dropped the car off with the usual song and dance about wear and tear at the end of a lease.  And that was that.  My wife drove me home in her car.  Yes, it runs on gas.  It also is larger, holds our two big dogs and goes long distances when we need it.  So having both is really part of the equation for us.

Anyway, after turning in my past… I couldn't wait to get back in my future… the Nissan Leaf.  

Coming soon, my thoughts about range anxiety and how hypermileing is more than replacing my love of shifting.

 

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)

The LEAF Home Charging Station Equation

It's been a few weeks since we got our 2013 Nissan LEAF home, and I thought it was time to discuss our approach to home charging.

Prior to purchasing the Leaf, I had the chance to speak with someone living nearby who was using a Leaf in about the same way I would be. He was commuting not too far every day and had some interesting thoughts about charging.

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At the time I spoke to him, I was assuming we would invest in a level 2 charger for home.  Besides being a fast charge, the thing looks like such a cool gadget that I thought it would great to have one.  Anyway, this gentleman's use case was so similar to mine that I figured I might learn something from his experience.

What he told me that day was that for more than a year he was getting by just fine by using the 110 trickle charger that comes with the car.  In fact he was not actually plugging it in every night!  That surprised me, but it gave me something to think about as we prepared to bring our Leaf home.

So at that point, our assumption changed.   Since the car became available quicker than we had thought, we decided we would try to make do without the level 2 charger, and see how it went.  The major advantage to that approach was that we wouldn't have to spend what was likely to be thousands of dollars for the power run and the unit itself.

(Our challenge with plugging the vehicle in, by the way, is that we do not have a garage and so it is a complicated power run from our breaker box to our driveway.)

So now it's a few weeks in.  How are we faring?

The first week of use, there were a few 60+ mile days but its important to note those longer days were every OTHER day. Since then, my commute has tended to be about 20 miles total per day on average.  During the entire time, there was only one night where the trickle charger and the time on charge did not allow me to completely fill up the car (and it was after one of those 60+ days.)  I should add that I am leasing the car, and so I am filling it to 100% and not holding at the 80% mark recommended for long-term owners/battery life.

In fact, now that I'm in a more regular use pattern of 20 miles per day or less, I am not even plugging the car in every night!  Though we still have thoughts that it would be helpful to be able to charge the car quickly in an emergency, it really feels like using 110 alone will be enough for us.

One custom thing I did do, was to create a box to protect the charging brick from the elements while having it plugged in. This is probably not necessary but it feels better than to have the brick sitting in the rain at night.

Again this is a 2013 LEAF and if generally you'll be using the car less than around 50 miles total per day, and have a normal overnight charging time frame, the 110 trickle charger will be just fine... or good enough for you to get the car home and evaluate it from there.

Still loving my Leaf!

Living with a Leaf (A Nissan Leaf Blog)