A common question about electric cars is range. Driving the Leaf is like driving a diesel car with the “low fuel” light on all the time. In reality however, this isn’t as big an issue as you might think. Nissan have done a lot to get the most out of the battery, and while newer cars will undoubtedly be more advanced and do better, for a first commercial attempt I think it’s a pretty clever car.

The fastest way from A to B will be to drive fast and rapid-charge, almost always. But that’s not what this blog is about. Sometimes there aren’t chargers where you’d ideally like them to be, or perhaps you need to do only 5 miles more to get to your destination than the car predicts you can.

Top tips

Pick a route with low average speed and shorter distance, in preference over a motorway. This is of course because it takes a lot of power to overcome aero drag at high speed. The smaller roads will probably be more fun, yet use a lot less energy per mile than motorway. Motorways often go over hills rather than around them, and expose the car to  more wind- both the hillclimbing and high winds are range killers. The only good thing about motorways is availability of rapid chargers.

Use less power! The battery can deliver more energy in total, if it’s discharged more slowly. You might get 15% more energy this way. (It’s like your fuel tank growing if you treat it kindly:)

Keep your tyres pumped up to the recommended pressures (some hypermilers go above this pressure, but it will give a harsher ride).

Use Low Rolling Resistance Tyres with an A or B fuel rating.

Don’t over-use regenerative braking. This is counter-intuitive at first glance. Regen isn’t 100% efficient though, so you’re a little better off by not using so much power in the first place.

Keep the battery warm in winter. 4 temperature bars is OK, 5 is better. A warm battery will accept more charge, so you’ll get more range. On a cold day, when/if you have some battery charge left towards the end of a trip, try some deliberately aggressive acceleration and braking. This pumps some heat into your battery. Or get a Rapid charge which will do the same thing. This works because some heat is generated in the battery as it charges and discharges. Parking in the sun on a cold day also helps keep the whole car warmer (and hopefully the battery too). You might even avoid frost on the windscreen at the end of a working day! Sheltering the car from cold winds probably helps as well.

Don’t worry too much about the charge it takes to heat the cabin on a heat-pump equipped car, since it takes a tiny amount of power compared to the drive motor. On the other hand if you’re stuck in traffic for a long time on a very cold day, DO note the energy being used as it might become important!

Google “Hypermiling”. Most of that good stuff applies. People have learnt how to get way above the test economy figures from their “gas” cars for years. Don’t believe folks that say “it doesn’t matter how you drive”; they probably haven’t been measuring fuel consumption properly, or always drove their cars with the choke out.

Set up timer-charging so that the car is charged just before you need it. The charging warms the battery a little, remember- so you might as well take advantage of it.

Set up Timer Climate Control as well, far better to heat the car using mains power, and also avoid clearing a frosty screen yourself.

It’s safer and more relaxing to pull in and let tailgaters past…

When you’re really up against it, and the charge percentage is dropping faster than expected, slow down! The range

Always – plan ahead and know where your chargers are. Even better, check they’re on-line 🙂 Always carry your 240V “granny” charger brick, and maybe an extension lead, in case the worst happens.

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