Winter driving in the Leaf up to Whitewater

Last year, I posted about one of our first trips up to the Whitewater Ski Resort, near Nelson, BC, with our electric vehicle (EV), a 2014 Nissan Leaf SL.  We went on to drive up to the hill many many more times over the course of the winter, and the weekend ‘pilgrimage’ has started again, as of early December 2015.

For those more into video, I filmed portions of the drive up and down on a recent sunny weekend.  I kept a running commentary on different topics (see below), interspersed with time-lapse portions with music.

If you click through to the YouTube website you will find links in the video description to each of the timestamps, making it easier to jump around.  (To open it on YouTube, start the video playing, then click on the “YouTube” icon near the bottom right of the player.)

0:16 – Preheating the car

1:05 – Accelerating in town

1:32 – Power to get up hills?

2:19 – Energy consumer to get to/from Apex XC Ski Area

3:30 – Stats for the climb ahead

3:55 – Traction on mountain roads

5:32 – Torque and slippery roads

6:45 – Can the car stay warm in cold weather?

8:15 – Summary of energy used to climb up

9:08 – How do we carry skis?  Snowboards?

9:47 – How fast can the car heat up?  Heat pump discussion.

12:19 – Regenerating energy on the way down

12:58 – Cost to heat the car on our way home, energy use by the heater

13:55 – “Panic” stop with winter tires (Nokia Hakka R2)

14:30 – What would make the Leaf better for our area?

15:10 – Cold temps and limited regeneration

16:19 – Trip stats for the first leg of the descent

16:53 – The “energy info” screen in the Leaf

19:16 – Trip summary

I’ll put together a summary of my thoughts and add them as a static Page (under the EV Basics tab) at some point.

But briefly, here are some of the things I really like about my EV in winter:

  • Preheating!  There is a timer I can set to have my car toasty (or cool in the summer) by the time I set.  Alternatively, I can use the smart phone app provided by Nissan and turn on the climate control whenever I want.
  • Close behind preheating is that our car starts blowing hot air REALLY quickly… like within a minute, even at -10C.  This is because of the air-to-air heat pump included in all Leafs newer than 2013 (SV/SL trim only, not included on the S).  So if I can’t preheat for some reason (e.g. no cell service), no worries, I’ll have heat soon enough anyways.
  • Heated steering wheel!  Wow I love this feature.  Not sure why no one has thought of this before.
  • Heated seats.  These are becoming fairly common… but this car also has heated REAR seats.  Great for the kiddies.  (Though this car is big enough to hold 4 adults comfortably [unlike the Chevrolet Volt].)
  • If you put the car in ECO mode, you can modulate the accelerator very well, which allows you to get going with minimal wheel-slip in ice and slow.  You can turn off the traction control if you WANT your wheels to spin though (according to the speedo, I’ve had the wheels up to 90 km/h while only moving at a crawl).
  • With the mass of the batteries down low, the car holds its line very well even on slushy roads.  You don’t get tossed around like you do in other vehicles of this size class.

Some minor (or possibly major) cons, depending on your usage:

  • It does not have all wheel drive, which in our region can sometimes mean the difference between getting up your street to your house or walking several blocks!  Having said that, it does have good traction for a FWD car, and it has decent clearance, so does not get bogged down in snow.
  • While you do use more power to move the car in winter due to the denser air, I find this is generally a wash on overall efficiency because the flow of traffic is slower (at least in my region).
  • You do use power from the battery to heat the car, rather than utilizing waste heat from the gas/diesel engine, to heat the interior (all that waste heat on an ICE vehicle is from the inefficiency of converting chemical energy to mechanical motion).  Most of the time this doesn’t affect me, as I am not trying to maximize the range of the car – I have a few normal destinations for the majority of my driving (e.g. work, the ski hill, XC ski area, shopping), all within easy reach of a charge.
  • However, if you were trying to do a highway trip in winter, heater use, combined with highway speeds in cold air, could seriously impact your available range, by as much as 30 – 40%.  The good news though, is that auto companies are continuing to add more battery capacity to EVs as the batteries themselves become more affordable (similar to how cell phones started off super expensive and became cheaper/more functional over time), so this will be less of a concern in the future.
kootenay andrew

kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time.

He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage.He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs!(But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)
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kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time. He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage. He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs! (But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)

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