. . . We spent four days with a 2018 Leaf SL, the top-of-the-line version, and put 442 miles on the car. Our travels included not only our usual New York City-to-Catskill Mountains round trip, but also a road trip from NYC to Philadelphia and back.
Higher speeds cut into rated range, and to add to the challenges, we tested the car in February in the Northeast, with average temperatures of 40 to 45 degrees F. In other words, we didn't baby the car, but drove it the way we'd expect to drive any other car.
On our first highway leg, at night and starting with an indicated 99 percent of range—or 165 miles in Eco mode—we chewed up 108 miles of range covering just 66 miles at highway speeds around 70 mph, with one seat heater on, and only intermittent use of cabin heat.
That led to a relatively speedy decision to fast-charge the car every 60 to 80 miles as convenient, so as not to induce anxiety.
We expected to do so four times, once each up and back to the mountains and again to and from Philadelphia. A frustratingly defective fast-charging site, however, ended up requiring a fifth stop. . . .
Our fast-charging (all done at dual-standard stations) was split between Greenlots, which operates the fast-charging stations at rest stops on Interstate 87 between New York and Albany, and EVgo, which runs those at New Jersey Turnpike travel plazas.
Greenlots was fine in two out of three tries, delivering 17.7 kilowatt-hours in 33 minutes and 20.2 kwh in 42 minutes at the working stations.
The site at the Ulster Travel Plaza, however, gave us only 11.6 kwh in 53 minutes, not enough to complete our trip. Thus far, we've received nothing more than an auto-response to our complaint to Greenlots about what is clearly a defective station.
The two EVgo sites in New Jersey offered pair of stations apiece, adjacent to several Tesla Supercharger stations, and had the added benefit of not being located next to Dumpsters as the Greenlots stations on the New York State Thruway tended to be.
The EVgo fast-charging was free, through a card provided to new Leaf buyers. The Greenlots stations required an account with the company, though that was easy to set up via mobile phone, and the company's app can be used to start a charging session thereafter. . . .
Our level of charge varied from 99 percent to a low of 21 percent (with an indicated 32 miles left), and overall efficiency was decent if not stellar.
According to the Leaf's trip computer, our total of 442 miles were covered at an energy-usage rate of 3.4 miles per kwh. That's lower than the 4.0 miles per kwh we achieved in a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, but that car was tested in temperate California without need for seat heaters or cabin heat.
Moreover, the Bolt's battery didn't have to cope with temperatures and cold soaks near freezing. . . .
- The "e-Pedal" that allows one-pedal driving works superbly, and may be the most predictable among the BMW i3, Chevy Bolt EV, and Tesla Model 3. However, we had to learn to turn it on every time we powered up the car, because—unlike the Eco setting—it's not retained by the car when you turn it off. Very annoying.
The Eco setting is a tad sluggish but not nearly as grim and frustrating as on some other cars; it appeared to add 6 to 8 percent to the indicated range
The 2018 Leaf has enough power that it's almost perky in Normal setting, and only somewhat slow in Eco, though it's still no Bolt EV
The heated seats take a long time to power up, and aren't really sufficient after a cold start, and the steering-wheel heater is anemic at best
The heat pump that powers cabin heat, however, had less effect on range than anticipated (a decrease of just 5 to 9 miles when we turned it on) and we found that 10 minutes or less was enough to warm the car acceptably, at least in front. . . .