More details emerge on the Nissan Leaf's range

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
The magic number is 73.

That's the official range in miles for the 2011 Leaf, Nissan's electric vehicle, as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The announcement was made Monday.

Nissan has been touting a driving range of 62 to 138 miles for the Leaf, depending on conditions. Nissan's U.S. dealers will receive 20,000 cars during the first year of production. Based on interest so far, all are expected to be quickly sold.

“73” appears on the car's window sticker when it goes on sale next month.

The EPA sticker also says it takes seven hours to recharge the batteries, using the optional 240-volt line. Nissan is charging a little over $2,000, including installation, for the 240-volt recharge equipment that is mounted in the owner's garage.

Buyers preferring not to upgrade to a 240-volt line are in for a surprise. It takes about one hour to charge each five miles of range using a typical home's 120-volt line.

The EPA estimates that it will cost $561 annually to recharge the batteries on the Leaf. Photo credit: Nissan
The EPA estimates that it will cost $561 annually to recharge the batteries. Of course, the charge for electricity depends on local rates, and likely whether the Leaf is charged at night when rates are usually lower or during the day.

For months Nissan has been saying that the Leaf's range will vary. For example, a very high or very low outside temperature reduces the number of miles that can be driven on a single charge. So does high vehicle speed or blasting the heat or air conditioning. I lost 14 miles of range in the Leaf when I put the temperature at maximum heat and the fan at the highest speed. It was 39 degrees outside.

Then there's passenger and cargo weight. The more weight that is carried, the shorter the range. It takes more energy to move four people than one driver.

A 73-mile range is a far cry from 138, even 100.

I wonder how many of those initial hand raisers -- would-be buyers -- now plan to put their palms back in their pockets?