What’s the real MPG-equivalent of a Nissan Leaf?

What is the fuel efficiency of the Nissan Leaf compared to gas-powered cars? How many “miles per gallon”or “liters per 100 Km” does it make? Regardless of the published EPA metrics, the real answer for me depends on a few local variables:

  • How many kilometers you can drive with 1 KWh of electricity (K)
  • What the electricity costs are in your area (E)
  • What the current price of gas is in your area (G)

The first one really depends on your driving habits and weather conditions. Since I don’t have a Leaf yet, I’m’ going to use the estimated average range from Nissan: 160 Km per full charge. That’s 160/24 = 6.7 Km/KWh.

Second, check your hydro bill. If you’re paying flat rate, get your total after delivery and taxes and divide by the number of KWh consumed in that period. For example, if you paid $161 for 1,242 Kwh, you’re paying 13 cents/KWh. If your area has TOU (time of use) rates, then you have to consider that you’ll mostly be charging your car overnight, when electricity is off-peak and much cheaper (in my case, 5.9 cents/KWh compared to 10.7 cents/KWh during peak hours). You have to break down your bill and figure out what the after-taxes off-peak cost of electricity is. In my bill, I figured it’s 11.8 cents/KWh.

Finally, the average gas price in your area. Average because with all the speculation from the oil industry, gas prices keep changing all the time, even during the same day (and particularly the day before long weekends, which kills me). Where I live, the current average is $1.25 per liter.

So now we have everything we need: K = 6.7, E = 11.8 and G = 1.25

So let’s have some fun with these numbers.

How much does it cost to fully charge the Leaf?

Easy: 24 KWh * E = $2.83 — Notice this is the cost to charge a car that is *completely* discharged. That will be very unlikely to happen. Assuming you’ll charge every night, you will only be charging the amount you drove the previous day. For example, if you drove 53 Km, you used about 1/3 of your charge. Topping that off will cost you 95 cents.

What’s the “mileage” of the Leaf?

So you can drive 160 Km with $2.83. With this money, I can buy 2.26 liters of gas. So the Leaf can drive 160/2.26 = 70.8 Km with one liter, or 1.4 L/100 Km, or 166 MPG. That’s quite impressive!

How much cheap would gas have to be for my current car to drive at the same cost?

Good question! Depends on the car. Our Corolla can drive about 14Km with a liter of gas in the city. To drive 160 Km, it would need 11.4 liters. If we were to pay only $2.83 to drive those 160 Km, one liter of gas would have to cost 24.7 cents! Or 93 cents a gallon, south of the border. In the case of our minivan (9 Km/l) — not a very fair comparison, but still, that’s the car I drive to work today, it would be like paying 16 cents a liter (60 cents/gallon).

How much money will I be saving per year?

Depends on how much you drive and what car you drive. I expect to drive 20,000 Km per year with the Leaf. The cost of driving this much will be $2.83/160 * 20,000 = $354. To drive the same distance with our Corolla, we would pay $1.25/14 * 20,000 = $1,785. The Corolla would also need an oil change every 6,000 Km ($50/change), which brings the total to $1952. Therefore the Leaf will save us 1,952 – 354 = $1,598 per year.

Compared to our minivan, the savings are even more dramatic: $2,590 per year!

Conclusions

Yes, the Leaf is more expensive than a regular car, but when you factor in the driving costs, the picture changes completely. You can put it this way: The Leaf without the batteries costs roughly the same as a well-equipped car. The money you will save in fuel costs will pay for the batteries after several years. How many years? It depends on which car you’re comparing with. That will be the subject of a future article. Stay tuned.

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By canadianleaf Posted in Costs

3 comments on “What’s the real MPG-equivalent of a Nissan Leaf?

  1. Great Post! and it brings out the weak business logic of electric or fuel- cell car makers, and perhaps their lack of seriousness in winning significant market size.
    Three questions:
    1. If you know that the only cost difference ( when you buy) is the cost of batteries, why don’t you look at a different model of ownership? Lease the batteries, sell the car, for instance. Mobile operators and handset makers do the same thing! You can buy a 500 USD iPhone for less than 100 USD if you buy it with a 2-year plan from an operator. What is stopping car makers from getting into similar deals with power grid companies?

    2. The average consumer is smart, really smart and does this kind of math in his/her head all the time, to rationalise the decision for any purchase, where is the emotional connect? Cars are personal, much more than cell phones or any other device or personal accessory. Why aren’t auto marketers thinking on an emotional plane which is more personal than buy a alternate energy car- which is good for the planet ( impersonal!) and good for your wallet in the long run (low touch!), what do I get now- to flaunt, show, personalise – to mark as mine?

    3. Why do smart cars have to be ugly?

  2. Thank you. I appreciate your comments.

    1. This seems to be a country decision, not a car maker decision. Nissan has both options for the Leaf, and they sell the hot-swappable model to countries that have the geography and the incentives to develop the infrastructure.

    2. Different people will get attracted by different things. I’m a geek so I’m probably most attracted to the technology, but electric cars have so many angles that I believe it will attract a very diverse set of owners.

    3. To keep the drag coefficient low. 🙂

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