When you decide to base your daily commute on an EV, the word range becomes the most used in your vocabulary. And if you live in a part of the world where winter actually means frost and snow, you will definitely realize just how your EV’s range is affected when the cold kicks in.
But how much exactly does that cold affect the range of an EV? It takes a lot of measurements at different temperatures to get a clear impression. I was lucky enough to lease the Nissan e-NV200 for one year and then the Nissan LEAF the next year, in exactly the same conditions. Which was especially interesting due to the fact that they share the exact same battery and drivetrain. This meant that I could get answers to these two questions:
- How does the temperature affect the range?
- How does the build of a car affect the range?
Two Cars — Same Drivetrain
Nissan e-NV200 (2015):
Battery: 24 kWh
Motor: 80 kW (107 HP)
Wheels: Alloy rims with 185/65 R 15 tires
Range: 170 km (105 miles) NEDC
Nissan LEAF (2015):
Battery: 24 kWh
Motor: 80 kW (107 HP)
Wheels: Alloy rims with 205/55 R 16 tires
Range: 200 km (124 miles) NEDC
My commute is 30 km (19 miles) in each direction in a mixture of roadways. One third is countryside road at stable speeds around 80 km/h (50 mph). Another third is highway at speeds around 110 km/h (70 mph). The last third is in dense stop & go traffic in the city. Same routine every day, year round. Each car traveled a total of 25,000 km (15,000 miles) including the occasional weekend or vacation trip. I always used air conditioning and did not bother much with ECO-mode since it did not make that much of a difference anyway.
When I started out with the e-NV200, I honestly thought something was wrong with it. I had not realized how optimistic the European NEDC standard was. But I certainly found out. A friend of mine had leased the exact same car at the same time, even doing the same commute, and he learned the hard way by running out of electrons on the highway 10 miles from home. So I knew I had to be careful. One of the first things I did with the e-NV200 though was to go on an insane long-distance trip with my family that claimed a total of eight charge stops. That trip gave me a very thorough feel of what this car could do. But after that it was just everyday use.
The summer I had the e-NV200 I never had the opportunity to measure the range in temperatures above 20°C so it might have been able to get more than 100 km (62 miles). Look at those curves: the LEAF had up to 50% longer range!
The LEAF was more sensitive to temperature change than the e-NV200, and that is probably due to it being a lot lighter and having better aerodynamics than the e-NV200, thus making the temperature account for more in total resistance. If you look closely you might wonder if the two cars will have equally poor range at -10°C and below.
This test shows very clearly how useless the NEDC norm is. The real world range is way lower than NEDC claims. The NEDC ratio between LEAF vs e-NV200 is 1 to 1.2, while the tested ratio is 1 to 1.4 at 20°C and 1.3 at 0°C.
The answers to the questions above:
- The temperatures impact on effective range is interesting due to that fact that it is not linear. The curve seems to flatten at high temperatures, but seems to decline steeper the colder it gets. The main reason is probably the energy needed to heat the battery combined with the electronics preserving the battery with larger offset from total discharge. The fact that colder air results in more aerodynamic drag might also play a role.
- The weight and aerodynamics of a vehicle has tremendous impact on efficiency. Up to 50% greater efficiency in the LEAF vs the e-NV200 is quite significant, and a bit surprising. The reason the difference is so obvious in an EV is that a “tank” storing 24 kWh worth of electrons is equivalent to a gas version of the car having a 1 gallon tank. If you drove an ICE with a 1 gallon tank, you would be very aware of your milage!
So, enough with the numbers. Both are short range EVs, so that is a big challenge in any case. What about the daily use of the cars? Which is better? The answer is: both. These are both very nice cars with their own set of talents.
The e-NV200 is a very useful car for carrying out daily tasks. It is fairly comfortable, albeit in no way luxurious. Easy to get in and out. And the kids love it. Lots of room in the back seat, and drop down tables to put your stuff and place your beverage. The storage capacity is huge. Furniture. Bicycles. Strollers. All at once. Not a problem. And even though excess weight does nothing good in terms of range, the motor does not care. It is strong as an ox and hauls anything, and the balance of the car is totally unaffected due to the low center of gravity. A joy to drive in any condition.
The LEAF is completely different but equally addictive. Very comfortable, very smooth, very stable at all speeds, very quiet, and very solid. No wonder LEAF owners love their cars and don’t care one bit about the looks and the range. Most LEAF owners I know has an ICE too and never gives the poor range another thought. The LEAF is always first choice for the ranges it can muster. The LEAF was my only car for a year and we went on long vacation drives to Germany and Sweden and never had a problem with it.
The two cars are alike in terms of controls, buttons, and dials. Everything works. But not all buttons and readouts on the display are idiot-proof. You will need the manual to get the most of it. No surprise here. These are not futuristic cars. They are just normal cars for normal people. And that’s a recipe for success.