There are quite a few features and driving tips that don't exactly leap out at the average Leaf driver, and it can be hard to find all of them. Let's put them in one topic. I can edit this post to add more, so that people can find at least most of them in one post. Please also let me know what needs to be corrected, especially as regards model years. On to the Tips & Tricks!
* The fastest way to extend your range is to SLOW DOWN.
Unless your Leaf has a QC port and a quick charging station is on your route, it is faster to reduce your speed to allow you to arrive without recharging than it is to stop and charge (with L-2 charging) on the way. Accelerating moderately will also help, but reducing highway speed is more important in most situations. The Leaf gets much better range at 30MPH than at 40, better range at 40 than at 50, and better range at 50MPH than at 65. The faster you go, the faster your range drops. This is because of air resistance, which increases almost exponentially with speed. It takes much more than twice as much power to drive at 70MPH as at 35. Don't be a "rolling roadblock" to traffic, but also don't be bullied by other drivers into speeding. It's less stressful to occasionally pull over and let other drivers pass than it is to hold them up.
Coasting is also better for increasing efficiency than using regenerative braking. This is because there are large losses when energy is converted from momentum to electrical charge, stored in the battery pack, and then returned to the car's momentum via the drive motor. Coasting uses momentum directly, avoiding those losses.
* Inflate your tires to 40-42psi.
The 36psi listed on the door sill label is not just too low, as it is with many cars, it is dangerously low. This is especially true with the stock Ecopia tires, which have soft, fragile sidewalls. Inflating to 40psi will improve range, sidewall rigidity, and steering response without greatly harming ride quality. Some folks inflate to 42, 44 or even higher. I suggest you not exceed the maximum rating printed on the sidewalls, usually 44psi, and if you want the best compromise between economy, handling and ride, use 40-42psi.
* Reduce your heater output.
Whether you have the energy-sucking pre-2013 heating system or the latest "hybrid" heatpump-equipped system, turning the heat completely off in cold weather should be your last resort. Instead, reduce the blower speed to the lowest setting, to greatly cut back on the volume of cabin air that the car has to heat, and thus on the amount of pack energy used for heat. This allows you to have frost-free windows and a tolerable (if not actually warm) cabin. The actual temperature setting doesn't have to be reduced, as it will probably be heating continuously anyway. Still, if you can easily tolerate a setting of 65F, try that. If you need to leave the car unattended with the heat on, select the lowest fan setting and engage full recirculation while you're away.
*Drive economically from the start of a long trip, not just at the end.
You can extend your range with less pain, and even find yourself with enough range remaining to relax and drive normally the last few miles, if you use moderate speed and heat settings from the beginning of a trip that will test the car's range.
* The ACCURATE Range Estimator.
The 2013+ Leaf SV and SL (and possibly the earlier versions) have, in addition to the laughably inaccurate 'Guess O Meter' (aka "GOM") on the dashboard, a second, very accurate range estimator. By pressing the blue button with an arrow-like icon, located on the steering wheel, a small map display is brought up in the main navigation screen. On the display there are two concentric white circles, a pale white one that gives the GOM estimate as a visual representation on a map of how far the GOM thinks the car can go, and... the accurate
range estimate, in brighter white, representing a smaller circle. Both figures are also given as numbers on the lower left side of the screen. Thanks to one of our members bringing this feature to our attention in 2016 (!) we now have a way to do more than consult a not-so-magic 8-ball for range. NOTE: the representation of available range will still be adversely affected by large elevation changes on the route - the estimator isn't "smart" enough to take them into account.
(Range estimators typically take the last few minutes of driving, derive an efficiency for them, and use that to estimate range. For this reason they are usually inaccurate at the beginning of a trip, and tend to gradually become more accurate as you near your destination, finally becoming reasonably accurate when you least need it - at the end of the trip. Some estimators, possibly including the Bolt's, may use longer term efficiency averages to come up with a more reasonable range estimation over time.)
VENTILATION CONTROL TIPS
* Heater Off Switch for pre-2013 Leafs.
There is a fairly easy to install switch, available through this forum, that will allow you to turn off the liquid-based heater in the 2011 and 2012 Leaf. Amazingly, these cars don't already have such a switch: if you want to stop the heater from drawing power, you have to turn off the climate control system entirely, losing all power ventilation. See http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=20446
* Partial Recirculate Mode.
The Leaf has a barely-documented feature that is actually very helpful in Winter, especially when combined with the next Trick after this. With the ventilation set to one of the modes that allows Recirculation (any of the non-defrost modes), and with Recirculate mode on, press and hold the Recirculate button until the light above it starts to flash, then quickly release it. The light will flash twice, then go out, making it look like the car is in Fresh Air mode. In fact, if done correctly (and it may take a little practice, to avoid re-engaging full Recirculate) the ventilation system is now taking in roughly 1/3 fresh air, and recirculating the other 2/3. This mode does two things: it reduces the amount of external smog getting sucked into the car, and it increases the efficiency of the heater in cold weather, because most of the air doesn't have to be heated from outside ambient. It is also called "Auto Recirculate" (not to be confused with Auto Climate Control). This feature is still present in the 2018 Leaf.
* Floor-Only mode defogging.
One of the more annoying problems with the Leaf, Prius, and other modern automotive ventilation systems is that Recirculate can't be engaged in any Defrost mode. (This has been fixed in the 2018+ Leaf, which will engage Recirculate in Floor + Defrost mode.) It's true that recirculating air for long periods without using the A/C will cause the windshield to fog, but it is very useful - and much safer - to be able to easily switch Recirculate on and off without first having to take your eyes off the road in order to cycle to another mode while driving. I found, a while back, that when the ventilation is set to Floor mode (no defrost) enough air still comes out of the defrost vents to keep the windshield clear. This is especially true with the blower set to the second lowest or higher speeds. Using Floor defogging allows the driver to close the fresh air intake with just one button push as needed, to block exhaust fumes and other spot sources of pollution from entering the car. It also, when used with Partial Recirculate, allows you to get the best combination of energy efficiency and defogging/defrosting when trying to extend range. If the outside air is dry enough, you can use Partial Recirculate and Floor defrosting, with the blower set to Low, to get amazing energy economy without having to endure an unheated car and frosted windows.
* The Default 80% Charge Setting
(2011-2013 only). Set the main charge timer to both start and end at the same time every day, every day of the week. It doesn't matter what the time is, as long as it's identical for both the start and end of charge. Set the timer charge limit to 80%. On the 2013 only, then set the car's (not the timer's) charge limit to 100%. Now whenever you plug the car in, it will immediately charge to 80% and stop. If you want to charge to 100% instead, just press the Timer Off button in the cluster of buttons with the charge port release, steering wheel heater switch, etc.
(If you have a post-2013 Leaf, you have to calculate when to end the charge, either manually by unplugging the car, or by setting an end timer. Keep in mind that the car's estimate for charge times is pessimistic. The easiest way to charge to a specific percentage is via L-1 charging, which adds a reliable 5% charge per hour - 6% if the battery has lost significant capacity. The percentage is of course lower with the 30 and 40kwh packs, with the latter adding roughly 3% per hour on L-1)
* Don't leave the car plugged in but not charging for long!
The 12 volt system on the Leaf uses mainly standard automotive accessories, but the method of keeping the 12 volt accessory battery charged is different. A "DC-DC Converter" is used to step down the high voltage of the main battery pack to charge the 12 volt battery and to power accessories while the car is On. The programming for 12 volt battery charging is less than perfect, though, and some Leafs - the 2013 model year in particular, but not exclusively - can experience either a failure to start, or numerous error codes appearing, all due to insufficient power from the little 12 volt starting battery. There are three common causes for this:
Leaving the car plugged in for long periods
( generally a day or longer). The problem is that the car keeps checking the status of the charging cable connection, and this will eventually drain the 12 volt battery beyond its ability to energize the relays needed to actually boot the car up.
Frequent short trips with high accessory drains.
The blower for the HVAC system, the lights, wipers, seat heaters, and other components can use substantial amounts of power.
Using the "Accessory" power setting.
You'd think that it would be safe to use the accessory power mode for just that, but after more than a few minutes you can drain the accessory battery quite a bit, depending on which accessories are running. (The Prius suffers from the same issue.) Always make sure that your Leaf is in "Ready" Mode, with the little yellow-green car icon lit in the main dash display, when you want to use the climate control, lights, and even the stereo..
Unfortunately, the Leaf does not always do a great job of recharging the accessory battery while the car is charging, so the 12 volt accessory battery can become depleted, and not adequately recharged. (This is often not an issue with 2015 and later Leafs.) It is a good idea to occasionally check the "resting voltage" of the 12 volt battery, by leaving the hood unlatched for a few hours (to make it unnecessary to open the doors and create a power drain) and then using a voltmeter between the battery terminals. The 12 volt battery should read 12.6 volts or higher. 12.5 volts is marginal, and anything lower indicates an imminent problem. (Ironically, a "12 volt" battery that actually reads 12.0 volts is very nearly dead.) Regardless of what year Leaf you drive, it's a good idea to check the accessory battery resting voltage at least once.
: you may not have a problem with low accessory battery voltage, but if you do, then the only long-term, inexpensive solution (admittedly a rather inconvenient "bandaid" rather than a real fix) is to use a 12 volt battery maintainer. These are little "smart chargers" that will bring the battery slowly up to full voltage, and then use a very low current to maintain it there. Some of them will also de-sulfate the battery, which means that they dissolve at least some of the sulfur deposits that form on the battery plates when the battery is undercharged. You can use the included "alligator" type clips to connect a maintainer to the battery overnight once every few weeks, or whenever the car will be left plugged in after charging for more than a day. Always connect the negative clip to a metal part away from the negative battery terminal, to avoid affecting the car's voltage sensor. You can also install a "hard-wired" connector at the same locations, and extend it to tun through a drilled hole into the charge port compartment, allowing you to connect the maintainer easily, when needed. I did this, and even though my Leaf's original battery went nearly dead once early on, it is still working fine after almost four years. I have found it perfectly safe to have the battery maintainer connected and on while the car is charging.
OTHER TIPS & TRICKS
* Ice Park Wiper Mode.
At least on the 2013+ Leaf, the wipers can be "parked" automatically so they are vertical on the windshield, instead of horizontal at the base of it. This allows for much easier de-icing of the blades, and also prevents a lot of ice and snow buildup during Winter Storms. Turn the car off as usual, and then within 30 seconds, pull the wiper stalk toward you and release it, as if to activate the washer function. With the car off, the wipers will instead move into vertical position and stop.
This document may be distributed freely, with proper attribution to me, Michael Cerkowski, aka LeftieBiker. It also contains tips provided by other mynissanleaf.com users.