Range Aplenty

One of the most common questions I am asked as the owner of a Nissan LEAF is, “What’s your range?” Since it’s complicated, I usually offer up the basic, “Anywhere between 75 and 100 miles, depending on how I drive, how full I charge it, and the weather.”

And indeed, that was a question we were asking ourselves and others as we considered buying an electric car as our primary car. But now that we’ve had an electric car through three seasons, I realize that the answer to that question is not a number, but something much simpler: “plenty.” Let me explain.

I’m a mom and self-employed, which means I have no commute, but I still drive, and sometimes I have what we call “100-mile days.” Tuesday is a carpool day, and this week I had to add in a meeting, a doctor’s appointment and a run to the library. I also wanted to return something to IKEA, and I had a few files that I needed to review and get to a client before the close of business. Because I knew this was a lot of miles to cover, last night I used my smartphone to tell the car to charge to 100% (I usually only charge to 80%, to improve battery life). I said a little prayer for a warm spring day, since it improves battery performance, and turned out the light.

I awoke to a cold, snowy morning. While I sipped my coffee, I used the same phone app to preheat the car, knowing I might need to sacrifice some heat to maximize range. I also tucked gloves into my coat pocket. The first leg of my trip was a 29-mile drive past the airport to a high school for a committee meeting. At the end of the meeting, a check with my phone revealed a 63% charge remaining. I could easily make a side trip to IKEA Seattle and make the return. I could also take advantage of its restaurant, WiFi and charging station to grab lunch, send the files to the client, and get enough charge to make it home — with heat.

Ninety minutes later, I’ve had a tasty salmon lunch, the files are delivered, and I have an 86% charge. I hit the freeway, and 23 miles later I’m home, where I can plug in. But I’m not home long. I have just enough time to toss the laptop and meeting folder (and the requisite IKEA impulse purchase), and grab the library books and change of clothes for physical therapy, and I’m off on my afternoon run.

I pass the 75-mile mark somewhere after dropping the spare kids, and though it looks like I have plenty of charge for the rest of the day, I remember the mantra: charge when you can. So, even though we’re only in the library for 20 minutes, I plug in there as well.

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