Instead of Nissan under-promising and over-delivering on the range capability for its new all-electric LEAF, some are alleging it may have done the opposite.
At least this is the scuttlebutt from stories beginning to stack up in a LEAF discussion forum and news outlets saying LEAF drivers are experiencing “range anxiety” in fewer miles than they were led to believe they would.
And no, it is not because they attempted a coast-to-coast drive in the limited-range car, or something like that.
As the stories are playing out, LEAF drivers are depleting battery power within the estimated allowable traveling distance, and learning the hard way what it is like to be out of juice in a world where electrical recharging stations are few and far between.
For those not familiar, the LEAF’s 24 kWh battery pack holds more charge than the 16 kWh battery in the Chevrolet Volt, but Nissan took the chance of producing its electric car without a back-up power source.
The Volt cannot travel as far in all-electric mode, but, as explained last year, it has a 1.4L gasoline engine (generator) to power the drive motor(s), allow for “extended range,” and recharge the battery.
On a full charge, Nissan has said the LEAF should be good for around 100 miles in the city up to as much as 138 miles if the driver really nurses it.
A growing feeling among some early adopters is the LEAF’s real range may be closer on average to 60-80 miles, more or less.
The U.S. EPA has also pegged the expected range at 73 miles.
But not living up to range is only part of the problem owners are describing.
The LEAF comes with a sophisticated computer to estimate range based on available battery charge, plus past data that tracked how aggressive the driver was in the past. Despite this, tales of the computer’s readout being erratic and inaccurate are also coming forth.
As reported by Jalopnik, anecdotes have included one owner who said the LEAF is good for only 50 highway miles, another who watched a 17-mile range vaporize inside of five, leaving him stranded, and a reporter who ran out of power – and then posted an unflattering but pithy commentary on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site (see video below).
Fortunately, the reporter was able to take advantage of free towing that Nissan offers LEAF owners who run the car out of power.
Nissan released the LEAF this winter and has only reported 154 units sold in January and February combined. Its battery is not climate controlled as is the battery in the Volt.
Regardless of mounting anecdotal evidence, in question is whether problems will be shown to be faults of the car or driver or both.
Even with a computer second guessing driver patterns, range will vary depending in part on how hard and fast the car is driven.
For now the jury is out, but we’d surmise dramatic accounts of being stranded in busy traffic cannot be helpful to sales, as people are often swayed by perception.
Presently Nissan has all the pre-orders it can handle at an estimated 20,000.
In light of our story yesterday centered around a wide-spread lack of knowledge of electric vehicles, it would not be surprising to learn in time whether some of the early enthusiasm for the LEAF, at least by some, was not based on full information.
But thus far Nissan has not said it has withheld any facts.
In response to the range issues, a Nissan spokesperson said “isolated incidents” experienced by some LEAF drivers do not represent a trend.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 at 4:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.