Last Friday I noticed that the fuel efficiency or “mileage” display in the Leaf indicated 8.0 km/kWh. (“kWh” or kilowatt-hour is the amount of electricity required to light ten 100 watt light bulbs for an hour. One kWh costs $0.12 in New Brunswick.) The Leaf’s mileage has been improving each month since hitting the usual low of about 5 in mid-winter. This latest milestone, brought on by the warming spring weather, made me reflect about how my perspective of the value of tracking mileage has changed.
Ever since getting my driver’s license at age 16, better mileage simply meant saving money. The better the mileage the more I had to spend on other things. My 1977 Honda 750 Supersport motorcycle was a fun ride but at 80 miles to the gallon (mpg) it was also incredibly cheap transportation. Later on Lee and I kept things thrifty with our 1985 Camry which beat 50 mpg.
Now with our Leaf, improving mileage is no longer about saving money. Well, it does save money but the amount involved is tiny. If the mileage in our Leaf drops 10% then the cost of electricity for our Leaf rises $2 from $23 to $25 for a month (1,300 km). With the Leaf I only focus on mileage when we’re going on a trip because better mileage means more range.
My typical out-of-town trip is to Saint John. That’s 108 km one way. The Leaf can hold a charge of about 20 kWh. At 5 km/kWh the Leaf could only go 100 km (20 kWh x 5 km/kWh) on a charge so travelling to Saint John wouldn’t be possible, forcing us to use our gas car. At 6 km/kWh the Saint John trip is a breeze. Definitely a reason to know what mileage to expect and plan accordingly!
The range of electric cars and the number of high-speed chargers are both expected to grow dramatically over the next couple of years. The 2018 Tesla Model 3 and the 2017 GM Bolt will have a range of at least 320 km. The 2018 Leaf is expected to match that. Long range models for 2020 have been announced by many other manufacturers. The recent federal government budget includes funding for high-speed chargers along all major highways. Increased range and good access to chargers will mean long distance travel in electric cars will require no more planning than when using a gas-fueled vehicle.
For now, mileage determines whether our trips will be fueled by gas or electricity but very soon mileage will get relegated to the dusty corner of interesting but unused statistics.