I do not want to get into the contentious business of how to rate fuel economy for EVs, hybrids, plug-ins, and multiples thereof like the Volt. We pay the EPA to do that, and they came out with figures for the Leaf yesterday.
Nissan was pleased that the Leaf achieved a rating of 99 mpg (average of 106 mpg city and 92 mpg highway). Toyota’s Prius gets a 50-mpg rating. The Volt has not been rated yet because its “fuel economy will vary enormously depending on how far the car is driven between charges.”
So the Leaf gets to display some very impressive figures on its window sticker, which will be great advertising indeed: best in class for mileage, zero tailpipe emissions, and an estimated $561 per year to charge its batteries (7 hours to recharge on 240 volts).
Let’s talk about some of these variables; they are confusing, to say the least.
The Leaf’s driving range is listed at 73 miles, rather less than the company’s claimed 100 miles. The EPA uses a federally mandated test that accounts for differing driving conditions.
The range, according to Nissan, can vary from a low of 40 to a high of 120 miles per charge. It all depends on your driving style, ambient temperatures, and whether you are doing lots of stop-and-start or sustained-speed highway driving. Typical range, says the company, will be 75-90 miles.
It’s an apples/oranges comparison, probably, but the 2011 Prius is rated at 536 miles per tank (51/48 mpg), with an annual fuel cost of $867. Autoweek’s Mark Vaughn drove the plug-in Prius for 7 weeks, going 3,224 miles. Depending on driving conditions, he got anywhere from about 40 to 58 mpg. The car’s battery-only range is just 12 miles.
It will be interesting to see how the Volt comes out in these ratings contests. The EPA is reportedly close to a decision on that extended-range plug-in hybrid. Twelve gasoline-free electric miles in the plug-in Prius may be enough if you can recharge while at work. The Volt costs more but gives you more flexibility than the Leaf.
So, as we’ve said before, whether any of these cars will work for you really depends on the kind of driving you do, distances, and the climate. Those are the main factors, and they are not always easy to assess. I think the EPA has helped in the process.
Given your specific driving style, needs, and conditions, would the Nissan Leaf make sense for you to own?