The real answer though is, “it depends.” The maximum distance you can drive from full to empty depends on many factors. These include speed, hills, temperature, wind, tire pressure, driving style and the use of heat or AC. For example, during the Polar Vortex last winter when the temperature got down to the single digits, the range was only about 45 miles at highway speeds with the heater on. Still, that’s pretty good considering those extreme conditions.
On the other end of the spectrum, I drove it 106 miles when I first got the car under favorable conditions which meant I was driving at speeds between 30 and 40 MPH on relatively flat roads in warm temperatures. After 106 miles, the lights on the dash started blinking to warn that the car was about to turn itself off. I don’t know if 106 miles was a record, but not many people have driven a THINK City more than 100 miles on a single charge.
Over the past couple years, I’ve read stories about EV enthusiasts who have gone out for the sole purpose of attempting to squeeze the maximum number of miles out of a charge. It has become something of a challenge. When the Tesla Model S came out, Elon Musk even offered a prize to the first person to drive a Tesla 400 miles on one charge. In December, 2012, David Metcalf drove his Model S for 17 hours straight at an average speed of 25 MPH on flat Florida roads for 423.5 miles.
On Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, Ari Colin @PLUG1N_Volt pumped up the tires in his Chevy Volt to 60 PSI, and drove around and around the 0.7 mile loop at FedExField in Landover, MD at 23 MPH to go 81.3 miles in EV mode in his Volt.
The MyNissanLEAF forum keeps a tally of the “100 mile club” of people who have reported driving over 100 miles on a single charge. There is also a 200 km club (124.3 miles) with 16 members and the most miles reported on a single charge in the forum is 186.4 miles by LEAFfan on May 27, 2013.
To drive a Nissan LEAF above 100 miles on a charge, you have to really be focused on it. Prius hybrid drivers call it hypermiling and they make a game out of getting the most MPG. I’ve heard the term hyper-ranging applied to EV drivers who attempt to squeeze the most miles out of a single charge for bragging rights or just for a personal challenge.
I’ve been wondering how far I could go if I found a more optimal route with fewer stops, relatively flat terrain, and drove at 25 MPH rather that 35 MPH. I thought I could go maybe 120 miles this time which I thought would be incredible.
There is a 2 mile loop around an office park near my house which is in a 30-35 MPH speed limit area, has almost no traffic on Sunday, has two lanes in each direction to allow cars to pass while I could drive 25 MPH on the relatively flat road. (100 ft elevation difference in each 2 mile lap) I waited for a day with warm temperatures and light winds. On September 7, 2014 the temperature was in the upper 70’s and the wind was a bit breezy but not too bad so I decided to go for it. I pumped all four tires to the max. pressure indicated on the sidewall, 51 PSI. I loaded up some podcasts to listen to and at 4:03 PM, I unplugged the fully charged car and drove slowly over to the office park and began driving in circles.
After two hours, I had done 50 miles and still had 61% State of Charge (SOC) indicated on the analog battery gauge. When I hit 100 miles several hours later, I still had 19% SOC. I began to get confident that I could hit 120 miles before I had to stop. The needle on the battery gauge seems to fall slower near the bottom. The Low Battery Warning indicator light came on at 117 miles. That’s when I left the loop and headed closer to home to finish near where I could recharge.
Before long, I had 125 miles on the trip odometer with 3% remaining on the gauge. The needle points above 100% when full, at a position that I call 106%. And it went below 0 on the SOC meter when I drove 106 miles before. I kept going slowly until the Power Limit light started blinking at 130.0 miles. At this point I was keeping very close to the charging station and finally decided to stop at 132.0 miles. I probably could have gone farther but I didn’t want to push my luck.
A separate GPS unit that I had running indicated 131.7 miles, 24.1 MPH moving average, 5:27 moving time and 51:51 stopped time for stretch breaks and to eat. It took 8:06 hours to charge back to full with 20.57 kWh from the charging station. My car had 25,456 miles on the odometer when I began.
If you are crazy enough to want to attempt a similar max range challenge, pick out a good audiobook or podcast series because driving slowly in circles for hours can be very boring.