Does the 2011 Nissan Leaf Deliver Its 100 Miles Of All-Electric Range?


Your Mileage May Vary. One of the terms banded about time and time again by automakers as a justification for why your car doesn’t get the fuel economy it says your car should. The reason? Fuel economy is affected by many different variables, from the mood of the driver to the weather, tire condition and even the type of shoes the driver is wearing. 

The official EPA figures for the 2011 Nissan Leaf haven’t been released yet, and while Nissan has been open about the expected variances in range between optimal driving conditions and poor driving conditions after a series of computer simulations, we had one burning question. 

Does the 2011 Nissan Leaf get 100 miles to a charge, or is the list range something only elite hypermiling ninjas can achieve?

So when Nissan Europe invited us to Portugal to test-drive the closest example to a production version of the car we’ve seen, we jumped at the chance. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

The car we drove, in a brilliant white, was made as part of the production test-run in Oppama, Japan. While these vehicles will never see life beyond the Nissan press corp, the vehicle we drove was as close to the cars which started rolling off the production line last week as we’ve seen so far. 

While the European 2011 Nissan Leaf is only offered in one trim level, the car we drove was comparable to the SL trim option for the U.S. market, with solar panel, fast-charge port, fog lights, rear-view camera and automatic headlights. 

Setting out on one of the three routes Nissan Europe had pre-programmed into our car, we soon discovered that even in Eco mode, the 2011 Nissan Leaf could easily keep up with traffic. Our goal: to drive as we would in an everyday situation to see if Nissan’s claim of a 100 mile range was realistic. 

While most of the trip would be in the car’s “Eco” mode, we vowed to keep up with traffic, not break the speed limit and to only use the car’s additional electrical systems when we needed to. 

Being a European car, the odometer and speedometer read in kilometres instead of miles so our target figure for range was 161km.  Throughout the trip we aimed to keep the odometer plus indicated remaining range as close to that figure as possible.

2011 Nissan Leaf European Test Routes

Heading west out of Lisbon and into the country, our first demo route rose up into the hills north of the seaside town of Cascais before returning back to Lisbon with fast freeway driving.  While our trip west was on roads limited to no more than 50 mph, the return loop allowed us to push the Leaf at freeway speeds, with our co-driver keeping up with traffic at speeds exceeding 75 mph. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

Returning for lunch, we noted that while many of our colleagues in the press had made the same trip as us, every other car was recharging using DC fast-charge stations Nissan had brought along to the event.  

Why? We discovered on the plane home. It turned out that while the press present represented a cross-section of the media many were determined to drain the battery as quickly as possible, accelerating harshly, turning lights and air conditioning on despite the low 70 degree temperatures, winding windows down fully to create extra drag and even cranking up the volume on the stereo. 

Unwittingly, it appeared we were trying to do the very opposite to our fellow attendees.

Over lunch we heard our fellow delegates chatting. A few cars were down to less than half charge, while most others fared better. Ours, after the first 40 mile route still predicted at least 55 miles of driving remaining. 

2011 Nissan Leaf European Test Routes

After lunch, our second route, a 30 mile trip, took us on a mixture of roads through 50 mph single-lane roads through to freeways and cobbled city streets. Stopping half-way at a public charging point to reprogram the car’s GPS system, we noted a few of the attendees were there, making use of the 240V 16A supply. 

We passed on the opportunity and headed back to our base for the day, the Musea Da Electricidade. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

After trip too, our fuel economy was still looking promising. We’d traveled 73 miles and the car still showed enough electricity for a further 26.  The magic 100 mile figure was tantalizingly close. 

With just an hour left before our transfer back to Lisbon Airport we agreed with our co-driver to attempt the final of the three available test-routes: A busy city route in the late-afternoon rush-hour. 

2011 Nissan Leaf European Test Routes

With some errors on our part, and a confusion over directions our car remained in the non-eco mode for most of the 10 mile trip.  Start-stop driving, steep hills and a now-tired pair of drivers meant the remaining miles soon started to drop off. At the 30km (18 mile) predicted range remaining mark, our test-car started to complain about the amount of charge remaining.

Adding in a little extra driving at the end of our route, we managed a little over 84 miles of total range before it was time to bid our car goodbye. We could have taken it further, but the time of our departure was only a few minutes away, so we handed back the keys.  

But just before saying adeus our car informed us there was enough power for at least another 13 miles of driving. 

In other words, enough range remained to bring the Leaf up to a total of 97 miles, just 3 miles short of Nissan’s ideal-range calculation. 

While we didn’t use the air-conditioning due to the temperate climate, nor drove at extremes of style, our own test has shown the 2011 Leaf to be capable of the 100 mile range claimed of it. While we tried to keep the Leaf in it’s range-preserving “Eco” mode our day consisted of winding hills, high-speed freeway and city driving. 

Is the 2011 Nissan Leaf is more than capable of achieving its predicted range of 100 miles per charge? 


2011 Nissan Leaf

Our previous tests have shown that anything from 85 miles to 97 miles is more than normal for a 2011 Nissan Leaf. PluginCar’s Nick Chambers even managed an astonishing 116 miles out his test-drive in a Nissan Leaf. 

Drive harshly and make use of every conceivable electrical device in the car and the range will be much less. But unless you live in locations of extreme cold or heat, we’re confident that with a little practice your 2011 Nissan Leaf will show the kind of ranges we’ve experienced thus far.

Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.


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