Nissan Leaf Test Drive

Aug 27, 2016

Data gathered on a Nissan Leaf before considering a lease.

My wife and I have been way behind the curve on adopting an electric car to reduce our carbon emissions and improving our transportation efficiency. Like many folks we have limited budgets and all too often skewed priorities. Over the last couple years we have been setting up to get a 5th wheel trailer and that involved the purchase of a pickup truck capable of towing such a beast first. We got our truck in September of 2014, and finally got our trailer in April of 2016.

Recently we have been consolidating and paying down debt to make room in our budget for an electric car lease. We simply won't be able to make payments on purchase of a 200 mile range EV until we pay off our truck so we are thinking a lease in the mean time makes good sense for a interim vehicle. I have settled on the 2016 Nissan Leaf after looking into what is currently available.

Several things interest me about the Leaf ranging from the Nissan Leaf being in the market place for over five years now, and their efficiency. The introduction of the 2016 model 30 KWH battery pack with a 107 mile range seems to meet all our needs for a second vehicle. Our driving cycle tends to consist of mainly 20 mile trips to town, about 10 miles around town, and 20 mile return trips home. We also do 10 mile round trips to the post office for a minimum of four times a week taking our son to a work pick up point and bringing him home twice a week. A 12,000 mile limit per year on a lease would not be a real problem considering we have a truck for back up driving that we would need to drive a little every week to keep it in good operating order.

I was shocked when I begin crunching the numbers and found out how efficient an electric drive train can be. The 2016 30 KWH Nissan Leaf is rated at 124 mpg City/101 mpg Highway/ 112 mpg Combined. Since the car does not actually use gasoline what does that word equivalent even mean? There are 111,800 Btu's in a gallon of gasoline, and only 3,412 Btu's in a KWH. That means there are 32.7667 KW H's equivalent in a gallon of guzzeline.

That means all the Nissan Leaf's 30 KWH battery capacity are equal to only 0.91556 gallons of gasoline. That is not much gas for those of us used to driving ICE (internal combustion engines). Just for reference our Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 has a 36 gallon gasoline tank. However almost none of us ICE operators are use to driving vehicles that are routinely getting over 100 mpg either.

Recently I was watching an You Tube video comparing a Leaf to a Tesla to determine what aerodynamics meant on these vehicles. The Leaf has a Cd of 0.28 while the Tesla has a Cd of 0.24. The Leaf is a smaller lighter vehicle so the proposition was that the Leaf would be more energy efficient at 50 mph but the Tesla would narrow the gap at 70 mph. Sure enough the Leaf did 16% better at 50 mph and only 3% better at 70 mph.

This shows the positive effects of aerodynamics. What was starling about this test to me was that at 50 miles per hour the Leaf only needed 219 watt hours per mile. I did the math and this translated to 149 miles per gallon. Our 20 miles to town involves 13 miles at 55 mph then 5 miles at 40 mph. This means we could routinely return some incredible numbers for efficiency with an electric car like the Leaf.

We have 5.1 KW's of grid tie solar power which puts us in the position of selling about $600 worth of power to the utility for 9 months out of the year. During the summer we have to buy some power because our central air increases our electrical consumption.

This scenario means we could effectively charge an EV at 8 cents a KWH. At 1,000 miles a month this would amount to only about $23 worth of power and during the summer months this figure would rise to $35 a month at 12 cents a KWH. We would still save over $90 month on fuel at the low gasoline cost we now have. Turns out a gallon of gas equivalent in electricity is $2.62 at 8 cents a KWH. At 12 cents a KWH this rises to $3.63 a gallon equivalent.

Again getting over 100 mpg equivalent is what turns this whole equation on it's head. For comparison my Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 averages only 17.8 mpg. I would need $1,363 for fuel to travel 12,000 miles in this vehicle. The Nissan Leaf would only require $317 for the same 12,000 miles. That is a $1,046 saving per year in fuel cost alone. My truck averages 11 cents per mile for fuel cost. The Leaf would average 2.6 cents per mile, and that you can take to the bank.

Of course these are projections but they are in the proverbial ball park. Another comparison which would impress the engineer in anybody is the comparative BSFC numbers of these two vehicles. My truck has an estimated BSFC (brake specific fuel consumption) per HP (horsepower) hour of 0.485 pounds of fuel. We estimate the Nissan Leaf BSFC to be at 0.151 pounds of fuel per horsepower hour. Since this is only 3.21 times better why is the Leaf capable of over 100 mpg? The answer is of course regenerative braking, a lower Cd, low rolling resistance tires, less mass, less frontal area, only one gear, no idling loses, etc. You get the picture, the EV is a pure paradigm shift in efficiency. The battery technology is catching up fast.

That is my report. There are many other things we could cover but these are some of the things I think don't get discussed enough because they are technical. I will leave you with a You Tube link of a Tesla X on the German Autobahn doing 100 KPH and up to 250 KPH. For us Americans that is 60 MPH up to 150 MPH.

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