Drive a Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt or other electric car and want to know how to maximize your range? You can often exceed the EPA range of your vehicle if you drive carefully. Here are four tips to improve your range, with specific instructions for the Nissan Leaf (all models) and Chevy Bolt.
1. Enable Your Car’s Maximum Regen Mode
Virtually all electric cars have the ability to add energy to the battery by using regenerative braking. This process captures energy from the wheels and returns it to the battery, which also slows the car down.
To get the most of this, use the brake pedal only when necessary, and use regenerative braking to slow the car as much as possible. Most electric cars will enable you to enable certain settings to increase the effect regenerative braking. Here are some specific tips, depending on your car.
On Pre-2018 Leafs with B Mode: After shifting into drive, shift the same way again to shift into B mode. B mode makes regenerative braking more aggressive.
On Pre-2018 Leafs WITHOUT B Mode: After shifting into drive, shift down again to enable eco mode. In addition to changing accelerator response (more info in the next section), eco mode on leafs without B mode also increases regenerative braking.
On the 2018 Leaf: Enable e-Pedal, which allows for maximum regenerative braking, including the ability to come to a complete stop. Alternatively, you can also enable B mode. Note that according to the owners manual, enabling B mode has no effect if e-Pedal is enabled, so there’s no need to enable both.
On the Chevy Bolt: Enable L mode. After shifting into drive, shift down again to shift into L. L mode dramatically increases regenerative braking, and can bring the car to a complete stop. Safety note: when the car is fully charged or close to fully charged, regenerative braking will not bring the car to a stop or slow the car quickly, even in L mode, so be cautious about the different brake response.
2. Accelerate Slowly
One of the great things about an EV is the instant torque, and how quick they are off the line. But if you’re trying to maximize your range, then you actually want to avoid accelerating too quickly.
So ease into the accelerator. You can make this easier on the Leaf by enabling Eco mode. Eco mode changes the accelerator curve so that the car accelerates more slowly. On some S models, the Eco and B modes are combined.
The Bolt doesn’t have an Eco mode, but it does have a sport mode, which is off by default. The sport mode changes the accelerator curve in the opposite direction as Eco on the leaf, so make sure to leave sport mode off for maximum range.
3. Minimize Use of Heat & AC
Both heat and AC reduce the available range of your vehicle considerably. The less you can use them, the better.
In the winter to stay warm, use the heated seats and heated steering wheel instead of the heater as much as possible, because they use much less energy. On the Leaf, the heated seats and wheel actually run off the 12V battery, not the main high-voltage battery.
In summer, to stay cool, try the following two steps in order to stay cool:
- First, enable the fan with climate control off. Make sure to turn off the auto setting and / or any heat or A/C. If it’s not too hot outside, this may be enough to keep you cool with no impact on range.
- If that isn’t enough, roll down the windows. Rolling down the windows will lower your range, but not as much as using the air conditioner.
Of course, in certain climates, that still won’t be enough, but the less you can use your AC, the longer your range will be.
Another way to minimize the use of heat or AC is to use your vehicles climate control timers to pre-heat or pre-cool the vehicle while it is plugged in. The climate control won’t have to work as hard when you’re driving, and you may not need it as much.
To pre-condition / enable climate control, use the Leaf or Bolt smartphone app. If you have a Leaf smartphone app support, you can still schedule a climate control timer via the in-dash menu in the car.
4. Keep Speeds Below 60 as Much as Possible
The faster you are going, the more wind resistance will impact the range of your electric car. Vehicles really start to lose efficiency because of this after 50 miles per hour. While electric cars are usually designed to be aerodynamic, they tend to be be tall, which usually means they have more surface area and drag than some other vehicles.
According to the department of energy, you can use 14% less energy by lowering your speed by 10mph on the highway. So instead of driving 70mph, try driving 60mph. Of course, if you’re going lower than the speed limit, be sure to stay in the right lane.
On the Chevy Bolt, if you set the in-dash display to the enhanced mode, you can see exactly how much energy your car is using. As you exceed 60mph, you can see the energy start to rise fairly significantly.
You may also be able to avoid the highway entirely by sticking to side roads. If the side roads don’t add more than a couple miles to your trip, and you’re not in a hurry, use side roads, or take an exit a mile or two before your normal destination.
5. Inflate Your Tires Properly
Higher tire pressure reduces rolling resistance, thus increasing your car’s overall range. On the inside of the driver door frame, the minimum cold pressure for the tires will be listed on a sticker.
Over-inflating your tires can increase your range, but can be dangerous as well, making your tires more likely to fail. Your tire’s sidewall will list the maximum pressure that the tire can be safely inflated to. Never inflate the tire beyond the maximum listed on the tire sidewall (it may be different than the amount on the door frame sticker).
Both the 2018 Leaf & Bolt list the tire pressure of each individual tire in the in-dash display, so you can monitor them.
Nissan Leaf Tip: The Leaf (since 2013), has a simple way to tell you when tires are inflated using it’s easy-fill system. Follow these steps:
- Turn the car on by pressing the power button twice (be sure not press the brake, so that the car does not go into ready-to-drive mode).
- Begin inflating a tire, and in a moment, the four blinker lights will begin to flash.
- Once the tire is inflated to the proper pressure, the lights will stop flashing, and the horn will honk.