Electric Range for the Nissan Leaf & Chevrolet Volt in Cold Weather

 In Inside FleetCarma

Back in January we published graphs showing the impact a cold weather snap was having on the real-world range of the Nissan Leaf.

A lot of owners and potential owners have contacted us to say they found the results really useful.  Current owners wanted to know if what they were experiencing was normal.  And potential owners wanted to get a level of comfort of what to expect.  And we had a number of requests to add more data and other vehicles.

We love getting your feedback.  So based on your feedback we’ve added:

  • 2,000 more trips on the Nissan Leaf,
  • Chevrolet Volt data, with over 4,000 trips, and
  • and the best range measured for each temperature.

All of the results were created from FleetCarma real-world vehicle loggers installed on vehicles all across North America.

Since the Chevrolet Volt turns on the engine intermittently at temperatures below 25 °F (-4 °C), only trips with ambient temperatures above that threshold could be shown in the graph for EV range. The use of the engine helps heat the cabin which is great for the driver, but prevents us from including those trips in our data set.

Update: we now have additional data analysis in a follow up post on the effects of heater use in the Leaf and Volt

A second follow-up post will discuss the Volt’s overall fuel efficiency as temperature changes and will include logged trips down to -13 °F (-25°C).


Chevrolet Volt EV Range in Cold Weather

Chevrolet Volt EV Range in Cold Weather


Nissan Leaf Range in Cold Weather

Nissan Leaf Range In Cold Weather


Interested in the impact of the driver/user, we also extracted the maximum/best range achieved at each of the temperatures and plotted those along side the average values.

As can be seen in the plots, the maximum ranges (green lines) have available ranges well above the average.  These trips could have been taken by gentle drivers taking care to utilize regenerative braking as much as possible, on clear roads.  These drivers also could have seen their range extended by preheating or cooling the cabin while the vehicle was still plugged in.

What both graphs indicate is that there is a sweet spot where drivers see the best electric ranges between 60-75 °F (15-24 °C).  There is no doubt that temperature has a measurable affect on the range of an electric vehicle.  What many drivers and fleets must keep in mind is that there is a great deal of operator control and many strategies and tactics can be taken to increase an electric vehicle’s range in warm or cold conditions.

To put some concrete numbers on this:

  • Best range logged on a Nissan Leaf @ 32 °F was 106 miles (0°C = 170 km)
  • Average range logged on a Nissan Leaf @ 32 °F was 64 miles (0°C = 102 km)
  • Best range logged on a Chevrolet Volt @ 32 °F was 38 miles (0°C = 62 km)
  • Average range logged on a Chevrolet Volt @ 32 °F was 26 miles (0°C = 42 km)

The key take-away: temperature has a significant impact on range, but the driver holds a lot of  sway over exactly how big that impact is.

And for those that like comparisons, here is the average range for both the Leaf and Volt on the same plot.  Again, trips below 25 °F (-4 °C) are not shown for the Volt since the engine is intermittently turned on below that threshold.

Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt - Cold Weather Range

Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – Cold Weather Range

If you have any suggestions for future analysis, please leave it in the comments below!

For the keeners, here’s some more information for you:

And if you are curious about our electric vehicle monitoring (we support 40+ EV models) solution, check out our Electric Vehicle Monitoring platform. Our C5 logger is able to log energy/electricity on almost every gasoline, diesel, and hybrid vehicle sold since 1996 in North America and 2001 in Europe, including:

  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Chevrolet Spark EV
  • Citroen C-Zero
  • Ford Transit Connect EV
  • Ford Focus EV
  • Ford CMAX Energi
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  • Mitsuoka Like
  • Modec Delivery Van
  • Navistar eStar
  • Nissan LEAF
  • Opel Ampera
  • Peugeot iOn
  • Renault Kangoo
  • Smart fortwo electric drive (3rd generation)
  • Smith Newton
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
  • Tesla Model S
  • And More!  Contact us if a vehicle you are interested in is not listed here.  We are continually adding vehicle compatibility.

Happy Driving!

The Truth About Electric Vehicles in Cold Weather Webinar

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  • Michael Bettencourt

    Some fascinating data here, and very useful for potential Leaf owners to know that Nissan’s oft-stated 160km range figure will be closer to half that come northern winters and extreme cold. Likely doesn’t help Leaf sales much, but a good prod for them to get those (or any) DC Quick Chargers out there, and improve their batteries.

    • Thanks Michael, it was really a pleasure to put this together. One thing I noticed around the 160km value in particular is that the green line (best range) crosses that level right around 0C. It reminded me of one of the few times I’ve been able to drive the Leaf, the temperature has always been around 0 and the range says just about 163 before dropping down as I begin driving/defrosting the windows.

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  • Pointswest

    This is excellent. Thanks. Don’t know if you have them in your data, but 2013-14 models of the Volt actually have different thresholds for activating the gas engine, either 15F or 35F, and which is used is selectable by the driver.

    • danwat1234

      and you can disable the temperature ERDTT (engine run due to temperature) entirely by replacing the ambient temperature sensor with a fixed resistor.

  • danwat1234

    “And for those that like comparisons, here is the average range for both the Leaf and Volt on the same plot. Again, trips below 25 °F (-4 °C) are not shown for the Volt since the engine is intermittently turned on below that threshold.”

    2011 Volts and most 2012 Volts have no engine temperature setting, so it will cycle on and off at 25F or colder ambient temperatures.
    The 2013 and newer Volts and some 2012s by default are set at 35F but have a “very cold” option in which the engine will only cycle on and off at temperatures of 15F or colder.

    The ONLY reason why the engine does turn on when you still have charge in the battery is to keep the safety companies happy with the speed in which the windows have to defog at. The engine only helps with heat coming through the cabin vents, it does NOT heat the cabin directly whatsoever, no engine coolant line or heat exchangers from the engine coolant goes into the battery pack. The battery pack has an 1800 watt resistive heater.

    So, there is no need for the engine to come on, let the seat warmers keep you warm and perhaps some light electric heat through the cabin vents.

    Also, you can DISABLE the engine in cold temperatures entirely by replacing the ambient temperature sensor with a fixed resistor so the car will always read a value above 35F all the time. It shouldn’t screw up anything. There is a seperate air sensor for the engine system.

    Google “Dealer resetting the ERDTT to the lower value on 2012s and earlier”,
    at the bottom post it has a link for a pdf showing instructions on how to do this. Replace sensor with a 1/2watt 15Kohm 5% tolerance resistor. User ‘somms’ of gm-volt figured this out. If you ever have to service the volt, swap the resistor for the sensor again so no warranty concerns.

  • jstack6

    Very interesting study. I’d add vehicles like the Tesla and FORD Focus that have thermal management of the batteries. That makes it the same range in heat or cold if the vehicle has been plugged in before driving so the batteries are at the optimum temperature.

    You may also want to compare how efficient the heating and cooling systems are in each EV. I find the air conditioner in our 2013 LEAF is a super efficient heat pump and only uses 1/2 the energy of our 2013 Focus Air conditioner. With our Focus In a 2 mile parade in December the range dropped more than half because the heat and defroster were running as it was 42 F outside and rainy Lucky it jumped back up after we turned it off and drove home at city speeds of 40-50 mph.

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  • Ken

    Hi. To persons living in Northern climates (Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, Syracuse, etc.), this study is useless. 32 degrees F feels like a heat wave in January and February. I saw some local information about the Leaf at 0 degrees F. Using the defroster, heater, lights and radio, the range dwindled to 28 miles. That is not enough for a commute from Naperville to Chicago, IL. I expect persons living in these areas would suffer from range anxiety on any trip. I’m glad the Volt solves that problem. Pure electrics are not there yet unless one reports exclusively from Southern California.

  • H. Kawaguchi

    Battery Suppliers cannot consider about the Winter Proof LIB, due to strong cost down pressure from Car Company.
    From battery material supplier’s point of view, there are some solution to improve it.
    Our proposal (I am marketing representative of Material Manufacturer.) is always rejected.

    • GeorgeHanshaw1

      I can understand why. The battery is ALREADY one-third of the cost of the car.


      Ford CEO: Battery Is Third of Electric Car Cost

      Mike Ramsey

      One of the auto industry’s most closely guarded secrets—the enormous cost of batteries for electric cars—has spilled out.

      Speaking at a forum on green technology on Monday,

      “When you move into an all-electric
      vehicle, the battery size moves up to around 23 kilowatt hours, [and] it
      weighs around 600 to 700 pounds,” Mr. Mulally said at Fortune
      magazine’s Brainstorm Green conference in California.

      around $12,000 to $15,000 [a battery]” for a type of car that normally
      sells for about $22,000, he continued, referring to the price of a
      gasoline-powered Focus. “So, you can see why the economics are what they

      Ford is currently promoting its
      $39,200 Focus EV at events around the country. It has a 23 kilowatt-hour
      battery pack. A Ford spokeswoman said Mr. Mulally’s comments were
      designed to provide a indication of the car’s battery costs.

      on the price range that Mr. Mulally indicated, Dearborn, Mich.-based
      Ford appears to pay between $522 and $650 a kilowatt-hour for its
      electric-vehicle batteries. In the past, auto makers and battery makers
      have been reluctant to disclose the cost per kilowatt hour. Analysts
      have made projections that battery costs are between $500 and $1,000 per

  • djchristi

    How much of the cold-weather losses were due to use of the cabin air and seat heaters?
    This probably accounts for the high variability between different drivers.
    You should be able to get this data and add it to the charts.

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  • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

    How exactly do you determine the range? Is this from the dash mounted “Distance To Empty” readout? Are drivers physically driving the cars to exhaustion? Some other method?

    Also, I have a little quibble. Lithium batteries don’t lose energy above 25C / 77F degrees. In the LEAF, in particular because it’s the only mass market battery EV without thermal management of the battery, the stored energy continues to rise.


    We use 1% increase in stored energy per 4C / 8F above 20C / 70F, and a loss of energy of 1% per 2C / 4F below 20C / 70F. That means that a 20C / 70F battery in a like new condition in the LEAF will have about 21kWh of “usable” stored energy, while at 0C / 32F, it will have 10% less usable stored energy. Conversely, it will have 5% more stored usable energy at 40C / 110F.

    What confuses some folks is that temperature controlled cars (other than the LEAF) certainly have reduced range at hotter and colder temperatures merely because the temperature control is consuming energy to keep the battery closer to 20-25C (68F – 77F)

    The hotter the battery, the higher it’s degradation and service life. The lower temperature batteries have lower energy density but far longer service lives. The intersection of the two lines of degradation referenced to temperature and stored energy also referenced to temperature just happen to intersect around 20C – 25C. That’s why temperature controlled cars use this temperature.

    • Hi Tony – you’re right. Basically we are doing a “Distance to Empty” calculation. We filtered out all data where trips where too short (distance or time), and did the range calculation with trips with a good length of data to give a reliable measurement.

      For the hot weather, it’s not internal battery losses that’s driving the range loss. It’s, heavily, the air conditioner. As you note with active battery temperature management, some of this is completely out of the control of the driver. In the case of the Leaf it’s driver-commanded AC.

      Thanks for you comment/input! All comments/feedback/critiques are appreciated!

      • umichguy

        How do you define a “trip” ? Is it a single key-on till key-off event?

        Also, with regards to range is it for a single vehicle from full charge to the lowest useable SOC threshold (say 20%) before you it is recharged?

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  • Paul Davison

    Very, very useful post Megan. Thanks very much for sharing. Keep up the good work!

  • GeorgeHanshaw1

    I am always amazed at the assertions by electric car advocates that with sufficient government largesse, battery efficiency can be markedly improved. The reality is that the US and other governments have been pouring huge amounts into battery technology since before WWI. For German U-boats battery endurance was life or death – quite literally, as it was for all submarines prior to the use of nuclear power, and it remains critical to this day, since there are still a lot of non-nuclear submarines around. That is a HUNDRED YEARS of government support, and that doesn’t even include huge amounts given during the NASA heydays of the space race where – despite massive investments – they went to hydrogen fuel cells because they simply couldn’t beat the weight problem (which is no problem at all in submarines, since they need to add ballast anyway).

  • G. Parent

    Yes I have a suggestion for future analysis. I live in Whitehorse, Yukon. When we go outside in winter to start our cars it can be minus 50. More commonly it is minus 35 – minus 45 in a cold snap for a few weeks straight.
    Btw, minus 40 is the same in either F or C.
    Of course we use plug-in block heaters and oil-pan heaters that are on timers to begin heating our cars before we wake up … Otherwise they will simply not start at all.
    I can not find any information at all for what happens with an electric car parked outside at minus 45 or colder all day.
    Are electric cars possible north of 60?

  • Andrew

    For 2018 Nissan Leaf EV model will hit 200-mile range and use 60 kWh batteries. It’s equal to Tesla Model 3.