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Nissan Leaf Drivers Average 37 Miles Per Day, Added Range Not Needed Says Product Boss

An electric vehicle with a range of 200 to 300 miles between charges? Totally unnecessary for the vast majority of American motorists, says Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for Nissan North America. In a phone interview with AutoObserver last week, Perry said exhaustive data gleaned from the U.S. Department of Energy’s EV Project and from the 7,500 Nissan Leaf EV (above) hatchbacks now on U.S. roads makes it abundantly clear that “there’s no market need” for an EV that gets hundreds of miles between charges.

The data shows that the typical Leaf driver averages 37 miles a day in the car, and that the typical trip length (distance between power on and power off) is seven miles, Perry said. The findings are consistent with studies of conventional-vehicle driving patterns that found that 72 percent of American drivers travel less than 40 miles a day, and 95 percent drive less than 100 miles a day. Asked whether Leaf drivers were self-limiting because they know the car won’t deliver more than 100 miles of travel between charges, Perry said only that the company’s data and ongoing interviews with select owners don’t show that to be the case.

The 37-mile daily travel distance means Leaf owners on average use only half the juice in their battery packs each day. The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy testing determined that the Leaf delivers 73 miles of driving range between charges. Nissan’s own tests using the LA-4 cycle, a laboratory test that simulates city driving conditions, determined the vehicle’s per-charge range to be 100 miles. Because so much electricity remains in the Leaf’s 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack at the end of a typical day, the amount of time needed to fully recharge the pack is only two or three hours using a 240-volt charger, Perry said.

Perry noted early concerns that Leaf owners might prepare to leave for work in the morning only to find their vehicles still charging have proven unfounded. Furthermore, the data shows that some drivers go two or three days without plugging in, Perry said. “It’s a behavior of getting comfortable with your driving pattern and the capability of the Leaf. Initially, people do a lot of topping off, but after a week to 10 days that topping-off behavior starts to wane as they get more comfortable, and then they quickly fall into a pattern of, ‘If I don’t need to charge, I won’t charge.’ ”
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