November 23, 2010 – New Canaan, CT
The EPA has just announced official fuel economy ratings for the Nissan Leaf, the first mass-produced Electric Car. The Leaf will display a fuel economy rating of 99mpg, even though the car uses no ‘gasoline’ in the true sense of the word. Unlike the Chevy VOLT, which has an onboard gas-powered generator providing unlimited extended range electric driving, the Nissan Leaf is a pure electric vehicle that is limited by the range of its battery. Nissan has been touting the Leaf as having a 100 mile range before needing a recharge. However, in official testing, the EPA has estimated the Leaf’s real world range at 73 miles.
The official announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency surprised many observers as the Agency has struggled with exactly how to rate the next generation of Electric, Extended Range Electric, Plug-in Hybrid, and various other types of powertrains. For over three years, the EPA has debated the intricacies of how to provide consumers relevant data to compare a battery powered vehicle to traditional vehicles which run on gasoline. Our traditional measurement here in the US has been the EPA’s fuel economy ratings as expressed in miles per gallon. Since Electric vehicles don’t burn gasoline in the traditional sense, the EPA has developed a rating system it calls MPGequivilent. As the official EPA window label for the Leaf shows, the EPA has determined that the Leaf requires 34 kwh of energy to travel 100 miles. Thus, the EPA has calculated an MPGequivilent rating of 106 city, 92 highway, and 99 combined. By any measure, these are strong numbers.
The real issue for most consumers will be driving range. With a pure electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf, consumers must contemplate how far they are traveling to ensure they have enough battery power to get back home. With a range of 73 miles on a charge, the Leaf will allow its owners a driving radius of 36 miles from home. Most Connecticut consumers will find this range is limiting, as you would not be able to drive into Manhattan and back home without staying over to recharge. And you couldn’t make the drive to LaGuardia or JFK to pickup a son or daughter traveling home from college or a relative coming to visit, unless you had time to wait for a recharge at the airport – if you could find a charging station. Nissan states the offical estimated charge time at 23 hours using a standard 110v wall outlet, or 10 hours using a 240v charging station.
The Chevy VOLT has an official battery range of 25 to 50 miles, after which a small on-board gasoline engine turns on to produce electricity to keep the VOLT going for virtually unlimited electric range. The VOLT will travel about 350 miles before you would need to stop for gas just like a conventional vehicle. But in everyday driving, simply recharge the VOLT – about 8 hours in a standard 110v outlet or 4 hours using a 240v charging station – and you have pure electric range of up to 50 miles without using any gasoline.
It will be interesting to see how the EPA rates the Chevy VOLT. With retail consumer production of the VOLT already started, the EPA should be making an announcement very soon.
2011 Nissan Leaf Sedan – a pure Electric Vehicle powered by a 24kwh Lithium Ion Battery. The Leaf has a driving range of 60 to 100 miles (EPA rates range at 73 miles) before the battery is depleted and must be rechaged. Charge times vary from 20+ hours on a standard 100v outlet down to 10 hours on a special 240v charging station.
2011 Chevrolet VOLT Sedan – the world’s first Extended Range Electric Vehicle – featuring a 16kwh Lithion Ion Battery pack plus a 1.4 Liter Range Extending Gasoline generator. The VOLT will travel 25 to 50 miles on battery power – depending on driving technique, terrain and temperature – and then the gasoline powered generator will seemlessly turn on and produce electricity to keep the VOLT traveling another 300+ miles before you need to stop for gas or recharge the battery.