Fleetcarma Explores the Impact of Temperature on Range of Nissan LEAF


Fleetcarma’s simplified mission reads as follows:

“…to offer a system that allows fleet managers to make better-informed purchase decisions. The best way of reducing the cost of making a bad decision, is to not make the bad decision. We take the guess work out of calculating the Total Cost of Ownership.”

For electric vehicles, ownership costs are typically on the low side, but real-world range variations can turn what was believed to be a solid decision into a bad choice, especially at the fleet level if the vehicle in question doesn’t meet the real-world requirements of a specific fleet.

Since the Nissan LEAF tends to be cheap to operate, fleets seem rather eager to add some of the electric hatchbacks into their mix of vehicles, but is this a bad decision?  Well, that depends on several factors, but for fleets that operate in extreme temps, the LEAF’s claimed 73-mile range should not be used in determining even a ballpark estimate for real-world range.

Fleetcarma's analysis of the impact of temperature on range.

Fleetcarma’s analysis of the impact of temperature on range. (click to enlarge)

Your results may vary.  That’s the wording found as a disclaimer on all mileage claims made by automakers.  But by how much will it vary?  Well, that depends on countless variables that can’t accurately be accounted for in a useful way.

The most precise way to predict actual mileage or range is to compile data from real-world users and that’s precisely what Fleetcarma has done with the Nissan LEAF.

By compiling data of 5,400 trips taken by LEAF owners in North America, Fleetcarma rather accurately predicts the impact that temperature has in the real world on the Nissan LEAF.

Even heat impacts real-world range.

Even heat impacts real-world range.

The chart speaks (well, it can’t actually talk) for itself, so there’s no need to convey the message in words.  Temperature extremes reduce range.  That’s our summary and here’s what Fleetcarma added:

“The temperature is the average temperature recorded during the trip, and the range value shown is the maximum daily range available for that vehicle.”

But we need to add Fleetcarma’s disclaimer (it seems escaping the * is impossible these days):

*”It is important to note that variation in a drivers range will depend on many things including the driver’s style and the route that each vehicle needs to take.  Temperature has such a significant influence for two reasons, the efficiency of the battery decreases in cold weather, but what is more significant is the auxiliary load.  When the heater is on, available power from the battery that could be used to extend the range is instead used to heat the cabin, resulting in a trade-off for some EV owners between comfort and peace-of mind.”

Okay.  Range varies.  Our advice is this: If you reside in an area with extreme temperatures, then consider Fleetcarma’s chart as more accurate then the EPA’s 73-mile range rating and consider buying only if the range figure provided by Fleetcarma still suits your needs.

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11 Comments on "Fleetcarma Explores the Impact of Temperature on Range of Nissan LEAF"

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I imagine the curve being fairly accurate, but all the results seem to be low. Even in optimal temperatures they have the range at about 67 miles. I would have expected that to be between 72 & 75 MPC.

It’s probably fairly accurate since the data is taken from many short trips where people are not necessarily concerned about maximizing range and are generally driving like they stole it.

Drive like a typical person (75 mph highway or sprinting from stop-light to stop-light, AC/heat blasting) and the range is probably pretty realistic.

It does very nicely point out that the LEAF does need another 50% battery capacity (or significant improvements to efficiency) to get to the magic 100 mile real world range in at least some operating conditions for most people, especially once you factor in capacity loss over time. I think that once one can get a 34-36 kWh EV for a reasonable price/weight/volume we’ll really see EV sales start taking off.

We’re probably about 4-5 years away from that point (rumor is that 2nd gen LEAF will be due out next year – another 3-4 years before 3rd gen LEAF hits market).

This data is probably pretty accurate. Having a Leaf myself, I’ve seen this first hand. Now, when I say it is accurate, I mean for the average “Joe Driver” out there who will insist on running the climate control for maximum comfort. I’ve personally managed range much better than these even on cold days by wearing a coat and gloves in the car and using minimal climate control. I also pre-heat the car for 20 minutes before leaving the house while it is still pliugged into the charging station. But we can’t expect the average driver to do these things. So that is why i never recommend a Leaf to anyone who drives more than 40 miles per day.

I believe those numbers.. You have to understand how electric cars work to get good range out of them. Did fleetkarma take into account battery degradation?.

Still, most people drive 37 miles a day.

There’s 3 variables here:
-Cabin Heat
-increased viscosity of lubricants, along with higher air density
-effect of the battery itself being cold

It would be interesting to see the detailed break down.

The one time that I charged just prior to leaving on a cold day didn’t seem to do much. (I didn’t use cabin heat)…….but it wasn’t a very scientific test.

At any rate. Cabin preheat works good in the Volt. On my 68 mile route the ICE comes on soon enough and I get my heat that way.

I agree the numbers look low. But also that a typical driver, used to an ICE (read: FREE HEAT) will likely see these numbers.

My biggest gripe with this article is the use of the term “daily range”. In reality, they are talking about range per charge. Many people have the ability to charge throughout the day. Fleet owners can often control this factor themselves by installing L2 EVSEs appropriately. This infrastructure will only grow in the future.

Manufacturers should be required to provide a graph like this at the time of sale. Too many EV newbies have no clue how much temperature will effect the car. This would help a lot.

What do you think the chances of such an implementation Tom? Has BMW been receptive?

A manufacturer temperature graph, a real awareness of actual daily miles driven (which you have blogged about before), and an awareness of increasing range through infrastructure as Brian commented. And to a lesser effect but important, not heating the entire cabin. These factors play a very important role in the advancement of the BEV.

Also important to not underestimate the simple brilliance of heating an EREV (Volt,Fusion, Accord,C-Max,Pip) with the bi-product of every ICE (heat). IMO, temperature justifies an EREV more than range. But if you understand the above issues, you will be on your way to your first BEV (Leaf, Focus, Spark). Or you can just get a Tesla with a huge battery and “forget-about-it”

Seat heaters! you don’t have to heat the whole cabin. Once I have my PHEV, I’ll be able to see the numbers, but without a constantly running ICE, there isn’t much heat generated, so why not heat just you.

The only gripe I have with seat heaters are my feet. I could go for a heated floor mat too.

Nice to see FleetCarma’s work here! I’ve been using their monitoring system for a couple of months now to track exactly how much energy I use, and to help me get more mileage out of my Leaf. I would say my experiences up here in Canada are pretty much inline with what that graph says.