Nissan LEAF Ski Resort Trip Documented On Video

JAN 17 2016 BY MARK KANE 56

Nissan LEAF - Winter Driving to Whitewater Ski Resort

Nissan LEAF – Winter Driving to Whitewater Ski Resort

Here is a Nissan LEAF winter trip to Whitewater Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada for all those interested in seeing how the Japanese flagship electric car handles the task.

The big drawback is that energy consumption uphill stands at 2.7 km/kWh (1.7 miles) on average, which is a damn low value. However, because this was a local trip, it was possible to reach the destination with around half battery capacity left in reserve.

On the positive side, going down in B-mode (extensive regenerative braking) helps not only to save brakes, but the pack is charging while driving – several percent increase while going downhill, and a total of 52% when back home again. Average energy usage fell to 4.8 km/kWh (3.0 miles). That would translate to an average range of 100 km / 62 miles.

The video is via YouTuber “Kootenay EV Family”, which might seem like a familiar name to those the discussion community.  Drop a question in the comment section about LEAF driving in British Columbia…or if you need a ride to Whitewater Ski Resort – you might get an answer, or a lift!

Driving experience in winter on snow was great compared to a conventional car.

“A video about winter driving in the all-electric Nissan Leaf (2014 SL model); filmed while driving to and from our local ski resort, Whitewater.

Timestamps are below for the following topics (click on the timestamp to jump to that point in the video):
0:16 – Preheating the car
1:05 – Accelerating in town
1:32 – Power to get up hills?
2:19 – Energy consumed to get to/from Apex XC Ski Area
3:30 – Stats for the climb ahead
3:55 – Traction on mountain roads
5:32 – Torque and slippery roads
6:45 – Can the car stay warm in cold weather?
8:15 – Summary of energy used to climb up
9:08 – How do we carry skis? Snowboards?
9:47 – How fast can the car heat up? Heat pump discussion.
12:19 – Regenerating energy on the way down
12:58 – Cost to heat the car on our way home, energy use by the heater
13:55 – “Panic” stop with winter tires (Nokia Hakka R2)
14:30 – What would make the Leaf better for our area?
15:10 – Cold temps and limited regeneration
16:19 – Trip stats for the first leg of the descent
16:53 – The “energy info” screen in the Leaf
19:16 – Trip summary”

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56 Comments on "Nissan LEAF Ski Resort Trip Documented On Video"

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While 2.7 km/kWh is about 1.7 mi/kWh, what is 4.8 km/kWh? It’s not 7.7 mi/kWh. What do the miles mean?

If Kootenay EV Family is the same family who has web page, they live in DCFC sparse area. Wow, he must have nerve of steel to venture out at 2.7 km/kWh!

I think someone transposed numbers while calculating (7.7km does equal 4.8mi).

So 4.8 km/kWh would be ≈3.0 mi/kWh. A pretty respectable number given the conditions. So much so that I still have a hard time believing it!

Yes, that was a ‘maths’ transposition error there on the calculation. All fixed up now! /thanks

But if it is a downhill consumption it could be/should be a lot higher and could very well be a missing number like 14.8 Km/kWh. Although 7.7 mile would equal 12.5 Km!
I have an all around annual average of 6.5 Km/kWh in mainly flat terrain with very low winter temperature.

I don’t think he’s including charger efficiency. I drive about 2000 ft elevation on regular basis (love the beach, hate beach front home prices), and I get 3.3 mi/kWh just on uphill after L1 charging. Without taking charging into consideration, I get close to 4 mi/kWh, so his number is probably correct.

Yes the values quotes in the blog post and video are all from the dash. My EVSE at home combined with the Leaf is a bit over 90% efficient, so call it 2.4 km/kWh and 4.3 km/kWh round trip (1.5 mi/kWh and 2.7 mi/kWh respectively).

MikeM, I drive that trip almost every weekend, in widely varying conditions, and my round-trip efficiency usually comes out to something similar, perhaps +-10%. Keep in mind that the speeds travelled are not very high – we average about 60 km/h for the access road off the highway, which is about 10 km long, and while on the highway, we get as high as 90 km/h, but that is only for 5 – 10 km; the rest of the 25 km journey is done at 50 – 70 km/h.

Hi SparkEV – yes this I am the same guy – the nearest DCFC to me is over 350 km away! Coincidentally, this is also the DCFC at which I made a short video and charted the charging rate for “fast charging” a Leaf – not as quick as your Spark, but not too bad either, when in optimum conditions.

I have made this trip several times now, and they have finally filled in the remaining gaps with L2 charging – no more having to camp overnight for 15 hours in one of the small towns along the way 🙂

In terms of driving to the local ski hill – my range remaining is sometimes hilariously low – but I have never hesitated about making it there, even when leave the house at 70% charge. The energy used due to climbing up the hill is the dominating factor, so differences in speed (on the highway where I can go faster) and HVAC don’t count for much.

I read about your adventures in your web page, and I was impressed with your dedication to driving EV. That, and bit scared, too. You crazy Canadians. 😉

Glad to hear more chargers are popping up. Hopefully, they’ll put in more DCFC in your area soon.

The BC government is rolling out “phase 2” of the DCFC infrastructure right now, so when it is done, a newer Leaf should be able to travel from the US border near Vancouver along Highway 1 to Hope, then there are two routes from there:
– one route will go north up the Fraser Canyon (a super scenic drive) to Cache Creek, then from there east (still on Highway 1) as far as Revelstoke.
– the second route will head east along Highway 3 (which roughly parallels the border) as far as Osoyoos, then head north up the Okanagan valley on Highway 97 to re-join with Highway 1 at Salmon Arm / Sicamous.

A number of these installations have already been complete and are on PlugShare.


What was the elevation climbed? I did a one mile climb 5280 ft up Mt Wilson. Battery was basically dead at top…but on the way down was able to regen enough to make it to Glendale Nissan to charge. So up hill takes tremendous energy….coming down took no energy and netted some regen gain. So yes, that super low mi/kWh figure going up was more than doubled by the time I came down.

The climb is about 1,110 m (3,660 ft) over 25 km (15.6 mi).

So, 25km used about 51% of the battery going uphill (~3K ft climb)?

That won’t work for me for Lake Tahoe skiing area then…

MarvelFan – how far do you have to drive and how much elevation do you gain? I’ve put together a trip planning spreadsheet (primarily based on TonyWilliams’ contributions at MNL) and have it posted on my website – you could plug your values in there and have a pretty good idea if you could make it – click my name to get to my website, then hover over the ‘EV Basics’ menu item, then click on ‘Trip Planner Spreadsheet’.

So physics tells us that to lift the Nissan leaf 1110m takes 4.5 kwh of energy, storing that energy as potential. So that is about 0.3 kwh per mile. Of course the LEAF isn’t perfectly efficient, so the battery energy used just for climbing is more. In a perfectly efficient system the difference in efficiency between the uphill climb and the downhill would be 0.6 kWh / mi. Observed is 1.3 kWh /mi. So the system looks to be about 50% efficient.

My experience with Pikes Peak (8000 some foot elevation gain – about 30 miles to the top, 55 F at bottom, 30 F at top, 2013 Nissan Leaf – actually drove with another Leaf with twice the miles on the odometer and our stats were near identical) – used 85% battery going up – was down to 15% remaining.

Going down went 32 miles to where I recharged – ended with 40% charge, so NEGATIVE 25% charge for 32 miles – or infinite miles per KWh!

So, if all you have is downhill coming up – don’t worry about in an EV. In a gas car – better make sure your brakes are cool and ready to be burnt up!

Wow that is quite a climb Tim!! I think the largest climb I can do in my region (on the highway anyways) is about 4,500 ft. Maybe a bit higher on dirt roads. Did you find at the end of the descent that you had lost any bubbles on the regen side? I’ve run into it in the winter, but not in the summer as of yet.

One of the coolest things about an EV (or PHEV with a large battery) is the ability to recapture all that gravitational potential energy on the way back down – I love the fact that I get “free” driving from going back down – unlike the gas cars where your only reward is smelling your brake pads burning and consuming some fuel still.

Nope – I did not lose any regen bubbles on the way down at all. If I had gotten to over 70% charge – then I may have expected to see the max regen start to taper. Now – just to clarify – Pikes Peak highway is purely a tourist/fun road. Speed limits are 25 to 35 MPH the whole way.

The amount of recaptured energy down long descents is incredible, and at the same time it disturbs me with all the waste in gas powered cars.

“In a gas car – better make sure your brakes are cool and ready to be burnt up!”

Why not shift to a lower gear to use engine braking to slow down while driving down hill. Since the fuel supply to the high revving engine would be cut off, no gasoline would be burned and no brakes would used or burned up.

I somehow doubt the fuel supply would be fully cut off, and it is truly amazing to me how many people do not understand how or when to use low gear in a gas car.

Coming down Pikes Peak in a gas car definitely requires quite a bit of braking in a gas car even in low gear, however in my Leaf in B mode – I only hit the brakes very few times coming around the tightest switchbacks – or coming up on other obstacles like cars turning out onto the road without looking.

In virtually all modern cars the ECU will shut off the electronic fuel injection whenever you take your foot off the gas pedal in a effort to eke out improved EPA gas mileage figures. But as the car decelerates to a stop, the fuel will start flowing again when the engine slows down to a pre-set RPM above idle RPM in order to prevent the engine from stalling when the car comes to a complete stop. Hyper-milers figured this out when they hooked up a Scan Gauge to the OBD port on various cars. Even the Prius shuts off it’s fuel supply when gliding (decelerating) as hyper-milers hyper-mile with their annoying pulse and glide technique for the Prius.

I think many people don’t know how to use low gear while driving downhill, because know-a-days they haven’t ever driven a manual transmission car, unlike in the past when a teen’s first car was often a cheap car with a stick shift as opposed to a more expensive automatic transmission.

In my old Prius, battery would be full only after few miles in B mode, sometimes just down the first hill. With SparkEV with full charge at home, battery would be way beyond full.

First time I went to town (~1200 ft down) with SparkEV and battery range hitting over 110 miles, I got a call from Chevy. Maybe they thought the car had problem and checking up, I don’t know. Now I keep the battery in 50% to 75% range at home rather than fully charging; it’s annoying to have to pay attention manually.

I’m guessing by your comment that you can’t charge to anything less than 100%, similar to the way the 2014 and newer Leafs work. This is one of my pet peeves with how that EPA rule works – a manufacturer should not be penalized if they offer a way for the user to limit the maximum charge they want the car to have.

All EVs should have this option, since anyone who lives in the mountains could be faced with a similar situation to yours, where you commute every single day to a lower town. It’s annoying to have to rely on burning your brakes because the car can’t regen with the battery full (or close to it). Also a safety hazard in some respects.

“burning your brakes because the car can’t regen with the battery full (or close to it)”

I think that is a poor design in EVs.

Maybe a resistor bank to “dump heat” for those situation would be a good thing.

True indeed.
Beside in winter those resistor could put precious heat in the cabin and save more energy of the pack.
In a way, resistor are there in many EV for heating purpose. While not sufficient to pack all the heat of a steep descent, they could at least be use for their share and if design well take the overload for a couple of minute of all the energy reclaim.
That would be an astute design.

I accidentally charged to 100% once at a mountain town that I frequent after work – the descent back down to the valley is a little over 2,000 ft, and I usually regen about 5-7%. With 100% battery, I decided to try and consume power via the HVAC so I could regen more! I suppose it helped a bit, but being a spring evening (about 50F outside), I had to have the windows down with the heat totally cranked, and because I have the 2014 with a heat pump, I could only use about 3 kW! Not enough to slow me down appreciably.

Resistor bank to absorb car deceleration would have to be enormous. If you’ve seen 0.1kW resistor, it’s all heat sink of about 12 inches long. You’d need 50kW even for tiny car like SparkEV to absorb decelerating down the hill. Even assuming half at 25kW, resistors would be far bigger/heavier than inverter, not to mention the cooling radiator almost the size of gas cars. Having something of such size and weight and cost is not good just for some weirdo living on top of a long hill.

Even dumping to heat pump, 50kW (or 20kW) is HUGE. Home heating is about 1/10 that, so you’d pretty much make an oven (or liquid nitrogen) out of EV cabin.

EV batteries aren’t 100% at “100% charge”, so they are able to absorb typical driving. Unfortunately for me, I’m not typical, though overnight trip at ski resort with charging at the hotel at top would be similar (rare, but I’m almost daily). Still, blasting the heater would be one way to ease regen and delay the onset of brakes, even just for a mile.

“If you’ve seen 0.1kW resistor, it’s all heat sink of about 12 inches long”

That is to keep resistors from burning up..

But if those resistors are made to generate heat and tolerate them, then they should handle far more. Treat it like an electric space heater with ceranmic cooling fins to absorb and tolerate the high temperature.

You aren’t regen forever. Just use it until the battery are warmed up or can charge again…

In case of going down hill 2000ft, that will take 30 minutes to an hour at up to 50kW. It’s not forever, but it’s still a very long time. Problem is that only guys like me would use it regularly, but normal people would rarely use it, if ever; who goes skiing with EV besides those crazy Canadians? 😉

Then having such large resistor and taking up space and weight doesn’t make sense.

I agree very much so… I live on top of a 1500 ft hill, and luckily have a 2011 Leaf, so I can cut off at 80%. That way I have regeneration going into town. On the few occasions when I charge to 100% I have to ride the brakes all the way down. Not a nice feeling. I do hope they change the rules, or someone comes out with an app!

I asked my brother the exact same thing when he was teaching me to drive. His answer was “which was cheaper to repair, the engine or the brakes?

In North Vancouver we have plenty of steep hills. Nonetheless I often dropped into second gear. The transmission in my 2002 Honda Odyssey failed after 12yr/120k km.

My BMW was a 5-speed manual with a silky smooth inline 6. There was hardly any compression unless it was screaming at over 4000 rpm. Replaced discs and pads every two years.

The beauty of my LEAF is that in B-mode I can feather the accelerator and completely control my descent speed. It took me a month to get comfortable “accelerating” down The Cut. And no more guilt about wasting energy.

Interesting points on the gasmobiles! Hadn’t thought about that aspect.

For my 2014 Leaf, I run it in Eco mode all the time and feather the accelerator to control the amount of regen. I only use B when I need more regen on steeper descents to hold my speed.

“which was cheaper to repair, the engine or the brakes?”

That is the typical wrong questions to ask.

Engines won’t break due to your engine braking. But brakes can overheat and cause you to loose control and get into an accident.

I used to drive a manual transmission that I used the engine braking all the time and the engine lasted well past 250K miles without issues.

It’s a good question to ask.
Not all engine have what you need to slow down.
In fact most don’t, and most do have this kind of brake power only at a very high rpm, so high in fact that it is a very stressful situation.
It not a “Jacob” air braking system that you got in car.
In an ICE, you would have to use the brake in any heavy downhill, because it’s the only thing really working and because they are made for it.
If they over heating you’re are driving too fast, period.
But the point is that heavy regeneration can also tackle this task while putting energy back and compression or braking don’t.

“In an ICE, you would have to use the brake in any heavy downhill, because it’s the only thing really working and because they are made for it.”

LEAF’s max regen is around 30kW, give and take few KW. In heavy downhill, you would have to apply brakes as well.

Same with ICE cars. Drop it down to 1 or 2 is what you need to use engines to brake. You hear that all the time in the mountains. Unless your engine is wearing out and can’t hold proper compression, there is no reason why your engine would “wear out”.

I would like to give a realistic view of range in colder weather. This is a general summary from what I’ve recorded from the last winter and this winter. Temperature is listed and then mileage at low battery warning. Max in cold weather (maybe teens) after low battery warning I would say is around 14 miles, and you will want a bit of a buffer, so add about 8-10 miles to the lbw.

Temp LBW
60s+ 65
50s 55
40s 45
30s 35
20s low 30s
10s high 20s

Do you mean the miles you list already have 8-10 miles buffer built-in? Leaf should get over 80 miles in 65 degrees, no?

Do you include cabin heating? What speed, highway or local? Elevation change?

I find that range question is too complex for simple number; I have been working on blog post about it, but it’s turning out to be way too long, more like a book. Then I turn to simple post like bashing Bolt.

Sorry, I could have made it clearer.
I would not figure range til completely dead, so give around 8-10 miles after the low battery warning. That will leave a few miles left. So add 10 mi to the lbw to get total range.
I would call the driving I do local town driving. No highway just maybe 30 to 45 mph.
Yes, 80 miles range is possible in 80 degree weather. Lbw is often around 65 to 70 mi at max, and figure 10 more miles.
No elevation change to speak of in my area, and yes, cabin heating in cold weather like usual.

My goodness Brandon, that seems extremely pessimistic! How old is your car, what trim, and how much degradation does your battery have already? What heat setting do put your HVAC to?

I ask, because on my 2014 Leaf with a heat pump, I get far more range than what you listed, whether at secondary highway speeds (e.g. 55 mph) or in town. I have about 5% degradation. I run my HVAC on heat only, fan speed about 2, interior temp set to 68F.

Even at 15F I still have a range of at least 50 miles, from 100% down to low battery warning (17%).

Thanks for asking. I own a 2011 LEAF SL that lost it’s first capacity bar Spring 2015. Herein lies the difference I believe (heat pump system vs resistive heater). I set heat so its comfortable while wearing a coat. I really like the car and I can use it for 99% of my local driving. I put on 11k miles in the first year I had it. I’m glad to know that the newer heat pump system is more efficient, and having heated seats would help too.

Brandon, if this is of any help, travelling at constant moderate speed maximize range.
For my MY2012, I’d say the sweet spot is about 85-90 Km/h on mostly flat terrain.

He mentioned that LBW comes in at 14 miles, so at 65 miles, it would be 79 miles range, right near the limit of 2011 Leaf in highway. Using more heat at low temp, I think his numbers are pretty reasonable as very conservative estimate by giving 14-20 miles margin

At 90km/hr, he may do better, probably closer to 80 + 14 (LBW margin) = 94 miles at 65F, but that’s not always possible or safe. But at 30F and below, keeping it at 50km/hr would probably be safer, making the range longer. Again, his is very conservative estimates.

Ah that makes all the difference then. When I was researching EVs in the spring of 2014, I had definitely considered purchasing a used 2011 or 2012 Leaf (though with the temps I regularly see, I was really looking at 2012’s only, to get the heated seats). I had heard that the resistive heater consumed quite a bit of energy, but I had no idea (until now) how much better off I am with the heat pump. I wouldn’t be able to do my commute with a used 2011/2012 it seems! I’m hoping to get 4 years before I need to replace my battery – once I get below about 16 kWh capacity, I’ll need a new one due to the length of my commute.

Glad to hear your car works for you even with that temp-reduced range though! Sounds like you picked the right car for your daily requirements.

Yes, I believe the kind of heater make a the biggest difference. My record range just last summer was 95 mi. That was til turtle mode. Just to make sure it’s understood, 10 miles can be added to the LBW I listed. LBW gives a universal indicator that all LEAF owners can go by. The numbers I gave are my findings from keeping track every week since Fall 2014 when I bought the LEAF. The car is great for the driving I do, like I said. I just know some people who may be considering getting a LEAF (especially a used one like I did) would like to know what the range really is. I tried to find info on this before I bought it but it was quite difficult. So maybe some people who read this will get an idea of what the range is. I believe even people like yourself didn’t know til now, as you said. But it’s only going to get better from here with new technology and lower prices. My LEAF is the pioneer you might say.

I really appreciate the video and all the details. Nice work. I always wonder about regen efficiency, especially in bitter cold. Thank you KEVF!

You are welcome Kevin, and thanks for the compliment. Always hard to know sometimes whether I am just blogging into the ether. Cheers.

Thanks for the video. I have a few questions about your winter tires and the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Sensors?

Did you install the winter tires on the OEM rims and what did you do with the TPMS sensors? Did you transfer the TPMS sensors? buy new ones? or can you drive without any?

I usually have a second set of smaller steel rims with taller profile winter tires. I’d like to use my regular tire shop, KalTire, but I’m not sure if they can reprogram the LEAF’s TPMS when they rotate tires or swap rims.

Michael, I bought generic winter steel wheels for my car, and had them mount Nokian Hakkapelita R2 studless winter tires. I love them. I’ve run a number of different Hakka’s over the years, but they have all been studded. We moved further south in 2014, and the roads here are more prone to black ice, to be bare, slush, etc, rather than ice/snow – the studless Hakka’s have proved to be better in the conditions I regularly see now, and very close to the studded tires on ice.

Kal Tire is where I bought my wheels/tires, and they did buy sensors for each wheels. While they do work (I’ve verified by watching my pressure on Leaf Spy), I do often get a flashing tire symbol in the dash at start-up. I’ve looked at the trouble codes on Leaf Spy, but haven’t seen anything, so I don’t know what it means. I guess I should RTFM!

50KM with 51%?

I guess he wouldn’t want to drive to Lake Tahoe area ski resorts from the base of the Sierra Nevada then? That would be 50 miles uphill from about 1,000 ft elevation to over 9,000 ft elevation.

Also, why would heat pump have heat “faster” than resistive heaters?

From my older skiing days, my 4.3L V6 produces heat pretty fast also. In less than 1 minutes, I got heat at 7 deg F in Lake Tahoe…

What I can say for resistive heating, is it’s pretty slow at a cold start, because the system is made in a way to not stressing any high output off the pack over the usual traction need or else that their design limit.
Many ICE car that I had, heat pretty much faster from a cold start.
When it’s pretty cold, like -15c° or below, no air is blown for the first 10 minutes or so while the unit is “building” some heat as not to freeze the occupant with cold air, but it’s not cranking very hot and you still have a few minute of half heated air that feel cold when you wish a hot pulse.
The way they build it was to minimize the heavy toll heating have on the range, so heat is disperse very sparingly.
The bad thing is if you turn it off and on, it repeat the same behavior so much, that my wife and I prefer to let it all on or all off depending on the ride we make.
Having tried a heat pump Leaf, it felt much hotter but I don’t know if it heat up faster.

I took your numbers from this post, and used them in the spreadsheet I referenced higher up, and I figure you will use about 25 kWh to travel 50 miles, up 8,000 ft at a typical speed of 55 mph. So, it looks like you need to wait for all the “2nd-generation” EVs to have one with sufficient battery capacity to get to Tahoe comfortably.

With regards to the heat – the resistive heater Leaf heats a fluid first, not the air directly. The heat pump heats the air directly (as I understand it), which means less thermal inertia, so as long as the heat pump can work (generally temps above 15F), you will get heat FAST (within a minute). And I mean proper heat, not the “half heat” that Djoni notes for a typical ICE car.

The resistive heater heat a fluid first!
Wow, first time a read this.
This is sure questionable for efficiency as any energy transfer waste some.

“the resistive heater Leaf heats a fluid first, not the air directly”

That is news to me. That is even “dumber” design especially in a BEV.

Heat pump generally only works well with about 40 degree differential. If it is 15 degree outside, then it will heat the air up to about 65 degree at “best case”.

I thought the later model LEAF has both heat pump and resistive heating for “extreme cold”.

It does have both, though I don’t know if the resistive heater on the > 2013 SV/SL models is different than the earlier models or not. I haven’t had the “opportunity” to test that, as we’ve only had temps colder than 10F for a few days in my two winters of living in Nelson.

“with only about half battery capacity left in reserve”

What, is this supposed to be scary? Once you get to the top, you’re not going to be *using* any on the way back down. In fact, you’re using the car as a generator to heat the cabin and charge the battery. If you make it to the top with 50%, you’re laughing.

In my neck of the woods, it’s about 40 km from home to the base of the mountain. 12 km and 1024 vertical m later, and I’m lucky if I have 15% left. The ol’ 2012 “only” has about 88% left now, so I take a little coffee break at one of the DCFCs before the big climb, and that gets me there without needing to stop on the way back. Someone’s even wisely installed a quick charger in a much more convenient location recently, so even better for anyone visiting the local mountains!

You are correct – it isn’t scary. Total energy used for this trip is so reliable that I’ve left the house with 70% and been totally comfortable to do it. If I lived a little ways outside of Nelson in either direction though (east of west), it would be closer to your hypothetical, except there is no L2 station in Nelson (yet; they are installing a few this spring) and definitely no DCFC.