Test: 80 miles on a full charge

This test was to see how feasible it is to do an 80 mile trip in the Nissan Leaf on a full charge. The course was a circular route from Saltash, Cornwall and from there to Tavistock, Launceston, Bodmin and back to Saltash. This route is mostly fast A road but mostly quite twisty and being Devon and Cornwall it was almost never on the flat although there were no seriously long or steep hills. From Launceston to Bodmin however, there is a 20 mile section of dual-carriageway.

Journey started out at 96 miles estimated range. Temperature was 4 deg C. For the first 20 miles (to Launceston) the range meter and the state of charge bars were suggesting that this would be a very easy trip and at Launceston the distance travelled plus the estimated range was showing at 106 miles. There were just 40 miles to go and with 66 miles estimated and still 7 bars I was feeling very relaxed.

The driving style I adopted could only be described as extreme eco. I am very used to “hypermileing” as it is sometimes called… driving with the sole intention of extending range. This style of driving – uses acceleration only as much as absolutely necessary, uses considerable anticipation reducing the need to brake unless necessary, keeps speed down to 45-50 max (even on the dual-carriageways) and has no heating, a/c or radio. I am happy to drive in this way for a test such as this but it is very hard work and requires considerable concentration to do it well and so it isn’t how I would drive normally.

So, from Launceston to Bodmin is 20 miles of dual-carriageway and so I settled down to 45mph when nothing was behind increasing to about 50 when there was to try to reduce the frustrations of the drivers behind. Even this relatively modest increase in speed had a significant affect on the state of charge and consequently the estimated range. Having joined the dual carriageway with 7 bars and an estimated range of 66 miles by the time I left it at Bodmin I was down to 4 bars and 35 miles. That 20 miles had brought my estimated range down to 95 miles. Still not looking too bad… 35 miles estimated with 20 miles to go but I was now feeling a little less comfortable especially as at times during the dual-carriageway leg the range had looked more like 80 miles.

Well I made it back to Saltash but not before the “Low Battery” warning flashed up at 14 estimated miles remaining and 2 bars.

Yes, 80 miles is clearly possible but I want to make a couple of things quite clear. Firstly, yes I did 80 miles on a full charge but there is no way that I would expect anyone to drive in this super “hypermileing” way all the time. Had I driven still carefully but more normally then I almost certainly would not have made it round. Secondly, doing any distance at all at 50 mph or more is going to hammer the range. I think I showed this a little in my 70 mile trip with heating. Range at 50 mph is going to be nearer 70 miles than 80 in my opinion and at speeds faster than that even less. Lastly, and this is perhaps the thing I will take most from this test, had I gone wrong, even just a little bit wrong, then I probably wouldn’t have made it. Miss my turn-off the A30 and have to go another 3 or 4 miles to the next exit and then come back that 3-4 miles and that may well have meant that I didn’t get around.

I want to leave you then with this thought… if you are in a Nissan Leaf and your journey mileage is within 20 miles of your safe range then you had better not get lost. Missing your exit or getting lost even a little, resulting in even a short diversion to get you back on track, could see you desperately searching for somewhere to plug in just a few miles from your intended destination… now wouldn’t that be annoying.

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