Electric Cars posted by

2016 Nissan Leaf Extended Range – new electric gives 155 miles range, oilmen fret [Review]

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Sales of electric cars continue to grow as people discover the appeal of petrol free motoring, and the Nissan Leaf continues to lead the pack in terms of global sales. So it’s interesting to see how the EV manufacturers are steadily ramping up battery range in order to entice more customers and destroy the terrors of ‘range anxiety’. The new Nissan Leaf Flex (U.S.) (or 30kWh or Extended Range) model is an example of just that goal, with a 25% increased range taking it up to 155 miles per charge.

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First impressions
The new Leaf looks just like the old Leaf. So no turning over a new … ahem … leaf here. In fact the company boasts that the improved battery specification has been achieved without changing any aspect of the battery block, which means everything fits in the same space as before. While this may be disappointing to some, it will be good news to those existing Leaf owners who like what the car has to offer. Take a look at the video below for our overview of the car.

The interior also features the same design and overall specification, although Nissan has upgraded the center console with a new Nissan Connect system and touchscreen, to make navigation (and GPS satnav functionality) easier to use. We like the Nissan satnav anyway, so this is a nice improvement to have.

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In use
The fact is, there’s very little to differentiate this model Leaf from the original except the extra range. As you’ll see from the video above it drives as quietly as the original, feels as solid on the road, and offers a great combination of surprising nimbleness and responsive steering that has made the original so popular with EV drivers. The team has clearly decided to leave (!) well alone. If it ain’t broke, as they say.

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Which makes it rather hard to do a test review. The rear passenger space is still as roomy, boot space is definitely good enough for general family use and in every other respect this is a Leaf, is a Leaf. You may take exception to the large expanse of grey plastic on the dash, or feel that the exterior styling lacks a certain elegance, but even then it’s hard to argue with the over 95% satisfaction rate of exiting Leaf owners. They clearly like the quirky.

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Conclusion
There’s no question that as far as electric cars go, the more range the better, so this new model is to be welcomed as more proof that we’re moving towards a truly viable electric car future. However it has to be said that we’re still not there yet. With a 155 mile range, you can expect a real world maximum of around 100 (especially in the winter when mileage suffers the most) which is great for clearly defined commuter hops, but not so much for random voyaging further abroad.

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We’ll start cheering loudly when the typical winter range of EVs reaches 250 miles (at a family friendly, non-Tesla retail price), at which point we’ll have a silent carriage which will cope with all but the most severe long range commuters. Until then, we’re happy to report on any incremental improvements, small as they may be. Especially when they come from a car with the kind of solid reputation of the Leaf. Oh and the new 8 year, 100,000 mile battery warranty is also a nice addition, no question. But overall no real surprises. But that’s a good thing. Right?

Specifications:
Battery : 30kWh
Max range: 155 miles
Max speed: 144 km/h
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h – 11.5 secs
Charge time (quick charge) – 30 mins to 80%

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


  • Martin Boyd

    Why is so much range desired? By far, the majority of a typical driver’s trips are easily accommodated by the range of today’s EVs. And at the end of the day and you’re back at home, just plug that EV back in, if needed, and you’ll be ready to go again in the morning. Also there’s now a lot more places to recharge while on the rode, even though most EV drivers don’t need to recharge while driving. So let’s just stop with all this “range anxiety” talk. It no longer exists!!

    • I have to say I respectfully disagree Martin. I think it’s quite feasible to ramble around town doing tasks and rack up 30 miles or more during a day, which means you’re left with 30 to 40 miles on the clock. Which leaves no wriggle room for any more late day jaunts (e,g. an airport or entertainment run) without worrying about finding a recharge source somewhere.

      Range anxiety is therefore connected with having to ‘plan’ your excursions all the time, unless you’re only using the car for strictly controlled low mileage commuter runs (where the problem goes away). Limited range seems to remove the spontaneity from urban and suburban driving in many ways. Just my 2c.

      • Martin Boyd

        Wow, thanks for engaging in the discussion! Of those that charge at places other than their home, according to a newly released study, normally only use no more than four places to recharge. So for the most part folks don’t typically break from their normal routine and likely aren’t suffering range anxiety. Furthermore, again there are plenty of places to recharge out there and more coming on line all the time. Finally, at least with my Leaf, whenever I use the navigation system to plan a route, the car will warn me if I don’t have enough charge to get to my destination. All I have to do then is have the navigation system search for recharge points along the route. Once I select a station, it will be added to my route. The nav system even provides the phone number to call ahead to confirm that the charging station is operational, and the nav system can even report whether or not the statuon is currently in use. So there are plenty of reasons range anxiety doesn’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

        • Oh yes, thanks for reminding me about the cool POI charge point stuff in the satnav. It definitely helps. Despite all the aid though, I still believe that EVs won’t really take off until the range is higher. Psychological issue. :)

        • Malatrope

          You aren’t taking into account that there is a fairly significant population that doesn’t live in your urban/suburban metropolitan areas. I guess that these folks simply won’t be part of the market for electrics.

          Even in major areas (Puget Sound counts) there are people with long commutes. I had to drive an 80 mile round trip just to get to work and back, and most shopping expeditions were at least half that.

          Where I live now, it’s 58 miles to the nearest McDonalds, with a 3000-foot elevation difference. Electrics are out for me (though I would love one because I could charge it from my 10 kilowatt PV array) until they get their useful range above 200 miles. Unfortunately, the Tesla is out of my price range.

          • Yes of course longer rural trips are also relevant. I believe that we are quite close to the affordable 250 mile (real) range though. It’s just a matter of price, and like solar panels, that’s reducing all the time.

          • Malatrope

            There are several promising battery technologies in the labs, and it will be interesting to see which one surfaces as practical. I’m not sure the solar panel prices are dropping, though. I bought a pallet five years ago for $.88/watt, and their price (and the other brands) have actually increased a small amount since then. We are on a price plateau, plus or minus. What you may be seeing is increased subsidies.

          • Oh interesting. I was going by this article in the FT re solar prices falling. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee666260-d149-11e4-86c8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3qLz8ZqLi

          • Malatrope

            Hmmm, that article seems to require an account. I would trust FT’s numbers. I am by no means going by an industry-wide survey though, my experience with one vendor (located in California), with a small quantity. It’s entirely possible that those buying in bulk (>1000) are experiencing reductions in price, since supply and demand is a pretty ironclad effect. The other ironclad effect is that a seller won’t exist very long if he is undercut by competitors, so I presumed my experience reflected a general reality in the consumer marketplace.

            I have found that the battery farm is the primary cost driver in standalone PV systems. I’m quite happy to get panels under a buck a watt, after living through a decade where you had to spend $3 to $4, but I really wish I could get 250kwhr of storage for less than the price of a small house (in Butte, Montana that is, not San Francisco).

          • I think the price pressure came from massive Chinese manufacturing growth. High spec solar still commands a premium though.

          • Martin Boyd

            In the third generation Leaf, due out in 2017, predictions are that it will have a 60kwh battery and a range of 330 miles.I’d recommend you wait until then if your trips are that long. Perhaps you can also buy a Leaf with the autonomous mode. The first gen autonomous mode will be designed to take over highway driving.

          • Malatrope

            Driving is fun! I’m the last person on earth who will ever enable an autonomous driving mode. But I hope you are right about a 60kwhr battery.

          • Yes that’s what I suspected too Martin. At which point it all starts to come together nicely. :)

    • Takes quite a while to charge an electric car, depending of course on the charger. If you’re stuck with only 110v, it will be many hours. No problem if you have nowhere to be. With my work, this would be unacceptable.

      The sub 100 mile range electrics were a no go for me. I was originally disappointed when I found out the original Leaf had an 84 mile range. Same with the i3 BMW, although you can get a generator option. 150+ I can live with. This really has me considering the Leaf once again.

      • Martin Boyd

        Consider installing a Level 2 charger at home. When my Nissan Leaf gets down to around 40-50 miles remaining, I plug it in and it takes around 2-3 hours to recharge. The Leaf now uses a 6.6 kw/hr inverter, so it’s a lot fast than the old 3.3 kw/hr inverters.

        Let me address another anxiety that perhaps you are thinking. What if I forget to plug-in my EV when I get home? Technology to the rescue again! Some charging stations can be programmed to text you a reminder at some designated time, if it detects the EV isn’t plugged in. Also, there’s even a charger that is plugless. Just park over the charging pad and it will automatically start charging the EV.

  • Rob

    The Nissan Leaf is not worth the price with that amount of range! I was an early adopter of the original Leaf. It was rated with a range of around 100 miles. However, I quickly found out that you could only get around 75-80 miles under real world driving conditions. That was acceptable with the proliferation of public charges. Unfortunately, as more and more electric cars appeared on the road, more of the charges were occupied are broken. After getting stranded for half a day while looking for a charger last month, I gave up and purchased a used Prius Plugin Hybrid. So I would assume that the 155 mile range of the new Leaf is all hype. 25% of that number is probably more realistic. Also, you cannot rely on the public charging network. And to add insult to injury, the Leaf depreciates quickly. My used Prius Plugin is worth twice as much as my used Nissan Leaf. :-(

    • Thanks for the interesting feedback Rob. That’s one more argument for more range. I’ve also noticed more occupied charging bays of late.

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