Nissan Leaf: Driving on hilly roads

Submitted by Greg on Mon, 08/12/2013 - 06:07

This weekend we were finally brave enough to take our Nissan Leaf over to Santa Cruz.  Actually, in the past the issue was not so much bravery as lack of time to charge back up to 100% for the drive home.  This trip we were able to do that, though, so we took the leaf.

I had already made some rough observations about the effects on range when driving on very hilly roads, but previously did not take careful enough data to draw any conclusions.  This time we made some interesting observations.  Ssince we did not measure from precisely the same starting and ending elevation in this trial run, our results are only approximate; actual results will also vary sharply with the steepness of the hill.  Highway 17 is very steep, so this data is representative of the more outlying end of the spectrum.

Our Results

On the way to Santa Cruz, we spent four bars to reach the summit, but it only took one bar to drive all the way down to our exit at Morrisey avenue.  We had similar results on the trip home, but also tracked the milages.

  • Trip up to the summit on 17:  13 miles @ 4 bars
  • Trip down 17, from the summit to De Anza blvd on 85: 14 miles @ 1 bar

Typically, we find that we get somewhere between 6 miles and 6.5 miles (sometimes even 7) per bar when doing highway driving on flat roads.  Going up a steep hill is around half this, while going downhill is double of better.  The more interesting comparison, though, is the up-and-down average compared to flat road driving.  (13 mi + 14 mi) divided by (4 bars + 1 bar) equals 27 mi / 5 bar, or a bit more than 5 miles per bar.

Hilly driving, then, gives you about 70% of the range of flat road driving.

Note that each bar on the Nissan Leaf represents 2Kw/hr of charge on the battery, so divide all of the figures above by two to get miles per Kw/hr.