Donal's picture

    EVs: Leaf and i-MiEV

    I'm hoping Nissan shows the Leaf at the next Auto Show. I recently looked more closely at the specs. When the Leaf was first released, forced-air cabin heating was standard, and a cold weather package was optional. In chillier areas, the cold weather package was standard. In summer 2011, Nissan offered the cold weather package as standard throughout the US. It seems that cabin heating draws 3 to 5 KW and reduces the 75 or 100 mile range (depending on who you believe), which is already a source of concern for American drivers. Presumably front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a rear HVAC duct draw much lower wattage and eventually heat the cabin air. The package also includes a battery heater and heated outside mirrors.

    The Leaf seems like a very nice car, but even fully counting the Federal tax deduction, its price is just about double the price of Nissan's Versa hatchback. I've been given a few Versas as weekend rentals, and found them extremely practical with decent fuel efficiency. We're still a few years away from our next vehicle, though.

    I'd be pleasantly surprised to find an i-MiEV at the auto show. 62 miles is an awfully short range for Americans to accept, but at about $6,000 less than the Leaf, the i-MiEV looks like an affordable urban or second car solution - if you have someplace safe to mount a charger.



    I just found this article in Low Tech Magazine:

    The status quo of electric cars: better batteries, same range

    In fact, the range of the Nissan Leaf or the Mitsubishi i-MiEV may be far worse than that of the 1908 Fritchle. The range of the latter was (officially) recorded during an 1800 mile (2,900 km) race over a period of 21 driving days in the winter of 1908. The stock vehicle was driven in varied weather, terrain and road conditions (often bad and muddy roads). The average range on a single charge was 90 miles, the maximum range recorded was 108 miles. (sources:  1 / 2 ).

    The range of the Mitsibushi i-MiEV and the Nissan Leaf was tested in a very different manner. On rollers instead of on actual roads, and in a protected environment, but that's not all. Both manufacturers advertise the US "EPA city" range, a test that supposes a 22 minutes drive cycle at an average speed of 19.59 mph (31.5 km/h), including one acceleration to 40 mph (64 km/h) during no more than 100 seconds.

    Critics blame today's manufacturers for not displaying the "EPA combined cycle" range, which also includes trips on the motorway (the "EPA highway cycle"). Contrary to vehicles with an internal combustion engine, electric cars are more fuel efficient in cities than at steady speed on a highway - an electric motor uses no energy when it is idling, and regenerative braking works best in city traffic. Darryl Siry, former CMO of Tesla, estimates that the correct range of the Nissan (and other modern electric cars) will be around 70% of the advertised range. That would bring the range of today's electrics to the same level as the 1901 Krieger Electrolette (68 miles).

    That also agrees with the 75 mile range that Consumer Reports claims for the Leaf.

    Don't most Americans drive about 40 miles a day?

    That's what this site says. I would think that for most families that would have two cars anyway, having at least one of them be an electric car would make good sense. For those of us with a single car, if longer trips are infrequent enough, a case can be made for just using a rental car (or even an alternate form of transportation) for those longer trips.

    I don't think it is the daily average that matters to buyers. For example, my brother wants to get his wife a Tiguan, an AWD SUV, because of the handful of snowy days in Maryland. Men buy the F-150 for those weekends when they buy sheets of plywood at the lumber store. Likewise, buyers want extra range for those days when they drive all over the place.

    So funny that you are writing about this, two weekends ago we were at a Chevy dealer getting my daughters transmission software updated so we were browsing in the showroom and they had a Volt there. It was for sale for $55,000.00, before tax, which here in Washington is 9.2%. That is kind of expensive! I'll stick to my used Subaru's, my scooter and my bicycle, and save myself some money.

    I actually like the Volt concept, and I think the fire business is overblown, but it costs a lot more than I can spend. For those that can afford them, I think EVs and plug-in hybrids could catch on when we see fuel lines again. 

    I remember when I was buying a bike in 1979. I was dithering between a Raleigh SuperCourse and a Puch Brigadier. The salesman said that I was the only guy in a week that cared what he bought. All the others came in the door looking nervous, and just wanted a good bike.

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