Image: U.S. EPA
These Numbers Don't Tell the Whole Story, Though...Nissan has announced that it has got the final LEAF electric car ratings from the EPA. As you can see on the sticker above, the LEAF is rated at 106 MPG-equivalent in the city and 92 MPG-equivalent on the highway, for a combined rating of 99 MPG-equivalent (more below on what "MPG-equivalent" actually means in this case). The electric driving range of the car as measured by the EPA is 73 miles, almost 30% lower than Nissan's own estimate of 100 miles. In real-world driving, the LEAF's range should vary quite a bit depending on conditions (as low as 62 miles and as high as 138 miles).
Photo: Flickr, CC
The Leaf is the first vehicle to go through a new EPA rating system that tries to give gas-mileage equivalents for cars powered by alternative energy.
The new system uses a calculation based on the energy equivalence of electricity. It determined that 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity are equivalent to a 100-mile range. The Leaf's battery hold 24 kilowatt-hours. (source)
The problem with this approach is that while a gallon of gasoline is a gallon of gasoline (depending on the source, the impact can be higher or lower, but there's still a clear range), the electricity used to charge the LEAF's battery can come from a wide variety of sources with a HUGE range of environmental impacts. If the LEAF is charged from a coal plant, it might not be much better than a gasoline car (and maybe even worse if it's a very old and inefficient coal plant), but if it's charged from wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, etc, the impact from each mile driven could be extremely small.
This just highlights how it's important to electrify transportation and clean up the power grid at the same time. One without the other is good, but not sufficient. It's even better to walk, bike, or take transit, but as long as there are cars around, they might as well run on clean electricity rather than dirty fossil fuels.
As a bonus, here's an interview with Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. He talks about Nissan's electric car strategy around 7:30 in.
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