Electric Car Notes by Ben Zuckerman 04: Miles per kWh

By Ben Zuckerman


In my first EV posting back in May, I guesstimated that when driven carefully a Nissan LEAF should be able to travel about 4 miles per kWh. We have now had our LEAF for a bit over two months and, indeed, we are going about 4 miles per kWh, implying a range of about 96 miles (the batteries store 24 kWh). This is fine for getting around most of Los Angeles where I live. The LEAF would be a perfect fit in places like the Hawaiian Islands where one would be hard pressed to drive 96 miles in one shot.

The solar panels on the roof of our house supply free “fuel” for the LEAF. If, instead, we were paying our local water and power company their lowest tier rate for electricity — I believe that this is 13 cents per kWh — then the LEAF’s fuel cost would be 3.3 cents per mile. As a comparison, for a typical gasoline powered car, assuming gas at $4 per gallon and 20 miles per gallon in city driving, the fuel cost per mile would be 20 cents.

Like a Prius (and presumably some cars that I’m not so familiar with), a LEAF has a smart key option where one can open and close doors without taking the key out of one’s pocket. However a difference between a Prius and a LEAF is that the former won’t let you lock the car while using your smart key if you have left the car power button on, while the latter will. In other words, should you forget to turn the power off, you can still easily lock a LEAF and walk away from it. This is a real possibility — I have done it once — because the car is so quiet you don’t know it’s on when it is not moving and you are outside of it.