Nissan Leaf 2013

Car Details

My Leaf is the SL with white pearl triple coat paint, black heated leather seats, led head and tail lights, fog lights, carwings navigator, solar panel, 17" alloy wheels, battery warmer, onboard 6.5 kw charger and quick charge port, electric door locks and windows, powered/heated rearview side mirrors and birds eye round view vision system. A set of black rubbermaid front and rear floormats were puchased separately at Canadian Tire. Also a 12 guage 50ft heavy duty extension cable was purchased at Canadian Tire in case the 120V L1 charger was needed in an emergency dead battery situation on the road. You may not always have a electric plug within the 10 foot range of the supplied charger.

Advertised Range is 160km (100 miles) 20C, (100% charge followed by City/Highway driving with Regen Braking). The owners manual (pg. EV-23) suggests that the majority of owners will experience range from 99 to 222 km.

Note: this car is driven in Eastern Ontario Canada between Wellington and Belleville.


Quick battery details

The car is 100% battery powered (Lipo) 25kw, 700 lb, with a 7yr 130k war.[8yrs 160,000 for 2014?] Guaranteed minimum 9/12 bars for 5 yrs. The latest model includes a battery warmer that comes on at -17C or colder, and goes off at -10C or higher. To prevent freezing, plug the charger in at -17C or lower.

The battery consist of 48 modules that operates at 250 to 400 volts driving a 240V AC motor. Maximum motor speed is 10,000 rpm so there is a gear box between the main shaft and the wheels. There is a sophisticated drive system including a liquid cooled inverter and stator.

Charge Timer Usage and Cold Weather Trips

Initially I set timer1 to 100% charge start 000 hrs end 000 hrs (thinking it would be always on) and applied this as need when 10C or lower temperatures existed. To insure maximum range in cold weather I decided to always charge 100%. Starting range displayed is typically 130km but drops rapidly going in to Stream Belleville, in 3 km, I see 95km range remaining with climate control on going up hill at 75kph. Trips so far have included days at -29C inbound and -20 returning, with 25 km to spare, with driving speed 75-85 kph and pulsed heating, with seat and steering heat on continuously. Navigation Manual pg 2-15 states 100% charging is recommend at 10C or less with battery deterioration effects small. See EV-22 in user manual for ways to avoid battery degradation especially at higher temperatures (25C+). I found it best to set timer1 to go from 8pm to 5 am 7 days a week.

Hydro usage (so far) is typically $1.50 for an 80% charge in 2.5 hrs and $2.30 for 100% charge in 3.5 hrs during non peak hours. The corresponding amount for peak hours are $2.50 and $4.50.

Many Leaf users are rightly concerned about cold weather driving. The chart below from FleetCarma was recently published in journal where winter range effects were discussed. In general it show that as temperature drops range is drastically reduced. At -18C a battery warmer comes on (I drew a dotted vertical line there) to keep the battery from freezing. It uses a small amount of energy from the battery. At low temperatures the battery may be less efficient and the climate control/defroster system will require more energy and usage. It is important to consider these effect on range. Failure to do so could result in being stuck on the road in very cold conditions. If you compare 'normal' drivers curve at +15C (120km range) with -15C( 90 km range) you can see that range has been reduced 30 km. It is not clear what speed vehicles were driven, how old the batteries were or how much climate control/defrost was used.

Winter Data Collection, Plotting and Equations to Predict Required Range RQ

Data is being collected daily on trips: distance, temp over and back, climate ctrl usage and speed travelled. The purpose is to better predict the range of the Leaf under cold conditions. (since the range displayed is hard to use) The data has been analysed and charted and an equation and is available in spreadsheet: RQ = D + RRT + RRA + RRS where RQ is the range required (showing on dash at start), D is the total (return trip) distance, RRT is addition range due to low temperature on battery, RRA is additional range req'd to operate htr/ac, RRS is addition range required for vehicle speeds above 75 KPH. A table showing the baseline return trip to Stream under many condition is shown on the same page. There are also plots showing how speed and temperature reduce range. Based on current data the limiting cold weather trip is -30C going 65km at 70kph with heat on 50% of the time (this neglects battery warmer energy lost while car sits in parking lot; not yet quantified)

Biggest impact on range is Battery Charge, Speed and Temperature. Typically distance required is a return trip to a known location (Belleville) so map should give a circle with half the range radius (it currently does) for commuters. Another concentric cicle could show speed and climate control effects. A more sophisticated Energy display showing combined effects of speed and temperature on distance travelled and energy consumed is required. (see sketch presented later).

Apps and Charging Stations

A number of apps (applications) are in use starting with the Nissan Leaf app on the Iphone4s. This app allows the owner to query and set remotely the the Leaf's charging and climate conditioin.Another app and website: ChargePoint tied to Nissan, and it shows charging locations. Many Nissan Dealers have the Aeroenviroment L2 charge stations. (Kingston, Ottawa, ..not Belleville). A third app I used called Plugshare (and related website), is more open and has more charging points including Sun Country Highway (EV charging stations on TransCanada HWY). Many Best Western Hotels have C90 L2 chargers available including Belleville, Coburg, St Lawrence College in Brockville is another important site. Many GM dealers have 15 amp chargers (that are too slow) they use for their Volts. My 40 amp GE Wattstation is registered on the Plugshare site ( I charge $5 non peak and $9 peak). I have a ChargePoint card (for many free sites tied to ChargePoint). I also have a LeCircuitElectrique membership/card to use at sites in Quebec ($10 card gives 4 free charges @ $2.50). Because charging stations are not always located at Tim Hortons or someother suitable stop over with restrooms etc. It would be good to 'cycle back' to civilization by carrying a folding bike. Or put another way, instead of sleeping for 3 hours while charging the car, explore and exercise a bit with a bike stored in the trunk of your LEAF. I have the 16" Vilano Apex 6 speed stored in the trunk for this purpose.

The screens below show charging station using PlugShare, SunCountryHighway and CAA charging station web sites.

Enroute stations (on HWY 401 in Ontario) should all have L3 charges to give 30 minute 80% recharge. L2 3-5 hrs is too slow for highway trips with EV cars. The availability of L3 chargers would go a long way to promoting EV's in Ontario and allowing reasonable commute times between major centers.

There is a nissan forum on line where many aspects of Leaf ownership have been discussed. Biggest concern was Nevada battery degration in high temperatures.

Problems and Improvements

Poor or Incomprehensible Range Display

The on board range display does not know how fast you will be going so it gives useless range info until car is up to highway speed.

The on board map range circle is useless for return trip commuting. User needs to know how far he can go before having to return to 'home charging base'. Nissan should introduce a switch or option to put car wings into one-way or return trip mode and also allow entry of estimated average speed.

Consider this. When I leave for work in the morning on a full charge in cold weather the range shows 135 km. Within 3 minutes (when I get on the highway and I have window defrosting) range now shows 95 km. So the initial range estimate was wrong by 40 km!! [That is a long walk home, or a long wait for a Tow truck] This is why I tabulated results and created my own range equation and spreadsheet to try to get a better estimate of how far I can go on a full charge under varying conditions ( primarily distance, speed and temperature). The current Nissan range algorithm incorporates these factors in real time, so it can't predict true range since it doesn't know what the average speed will be. It can only predict expected range based on current energy consumption. A better Energy Usage Graph would look like the sketch below. (submitted to Nissan/Users via Forum Feb 4,2014).

A Description of the proposed CarWings Display is as follows. The image above is a sketch of what I think would be a good Display for Nissan Leaf drivers.

It shows a typical return trip profile (me commuting to work) of about 62 km. You can see that it takes about 30 minutes to drive to work and my velocity start at around 40kph in town and then quickly builds up to 85kph on the highway. Finally, when reaching the work area I slow down and park until I do the return trip later in the day.

The X axis is time (in minutes) and the first Y axis is velocity in kph.

A second Y axis is distance which continues to accumulated throughout the day.

A third Y axis is Battery energy that starts with a full charge (or perhaps 80%) and drops to zero if you don`t have enough battery charge to do the trip under the specified conditions.

Notice 2 sliders at the bottom of the page. The first is a temperature slider to adjust forexpected temperature range. Now this typically varies over a trip but to simplify you would use the average temperature expected. As you can see, if you were to move the temperature slider to -20, 10 or 0 you would produce different curves of energy usage (shown in colors pink, green and yellow). If your energy curve dropped to zero before you reached the range required (in this case 62km) you know that you must make adjustments like drive slower or possibly charge the battery more (if it wasn`t at 100%).

A second speed slider is also shown at the bottom right side. Here you could adjust the highway speed portion of the velocity curve to trade off battery energy vs. time and speed. Notice the dotted horizontal lines representing alternate speed choices.

This will not be an exact reflection of the actual drive, but it will be close and easier to visualize what is going on for most users. CarWings could log actual velocity, distance and energy levels and display them on the chart to help us fine tune the chart.

Although a 'return trip commute' was drawn, a second optoin could be to just display half the chart and this could be programmed to represent a one way trip.

Possible Charge Timer Surprises

If you come home late at night (say 11 pm) and plug your charger in, it may stop at midnight with an incomplete charge. You can't leave the end time to 0:00 or it will stop at midnight. You need to do start time 8:00 pm, end time 5 am. for the current and next day. Else you may not be driving to work the next day (unless you complete the charge to 100%) when you see your Leaf only did a charge for '80' km because is dropped out at midnight. You need at least 130 km showing when you start if the the exterior temperature is -26C and you are driving 62 km return.

In winter program Timer1 as 8 pm to 5 am to use lower non-peak electricity ( in Ontario). For times when you must charge immediately use Timer 2 with start time = now and end time = now + 5 hrs. Insure both times are set for 100% (when temperature is 10C or lower)

If you turn timer off and ask car to charge (on demand) surprise: it will only charge to 80%. Be sure to use a programmed timer at 100%.

Danger of fumbling for swithes in the Dark

The lower Left Hand Side Dash switches are inadequately lit. (4 square ones for trip reset, panel brightness etc).

The fog light switch is a second ring on Left stick which is hard to see and use. This is dangerous in poor driving condition at night. You may end up flipping off your lights instead of turning on the fog lights!

Overhead light (above rear view mirror) also are not lit, so you have to fumble around and explore to try to get what you want.

Another button should be added to the steering wheel to allow users to toggle Climate control on and off in cold weather conditions.

Switching from Commuters only to Travelers

If Nissan wants to sell more Leafs in Ontario it needs to install 40 level3 chargers at Enroute stations on 401 in Ontario. There should be 2 at each station in East and West bound lanes. A $2 fee for an 80% charge in 30 minutes would be reasonable and existing ChargePoint or LeCircuitElectrique cards could be used for payment. Users would be required to 'punch' in and out so other EV's could see real time availability. This would alleviate the need for Leaf owners to have a second ICE (internal combustion engine) car for trips. It would also lead to less smog on and around highways (in the long term).

Warmer Temperature Expectations

It is expected that spring, summer and fall driving ( at 20C) will provide improved range perhaps up to 140km at 100 % charge and no a/c. 80% charge would then give 112km and save battery degradation. At higher temperature (say 30C) ac usage and battery high temperature would cause range reductions. Speed losses will be the same in the trouble zones below -18C and above 33C. So, long trips will be best at 10-15C with 100% charge and no a/c usage and speeds in 80-85kph zone. Data will be collected and equations and plots extended to incorporate real world results as the year progresses.

compiled Jan 22, 2014 JWB. update Jan 28, Feb 05.