The first generation of affordable electric vehicles consisted of city cars — vehicles that offered 90 miles or less of range, enough to get you to work, around town, and back on a charge. That slate of EVs served its purpose, but you had to stick to your immediate vicinity to avoid frustration and that dreaded range anxiety. Then the 107-mile Nissan Leaf, available in SV ($34,200) or SL ($36,790) trims, arrived on the scene. Equipped with 100-plus miles of juice, it actually opened up some road-trip opportunities.
2016 Nissan Leaf SV and SL feature 107 miles of all-electric range.
On Father’s Day, we decided to see how a 2016 SL handled a round trip from New York City to Philadelphia — exactly 100 miles, son’s door to dad’s door. Since the EPA-estimated range for a 30 kWh Leaf gave us more than enough juice, there would appear to be no issue on paper. However, highway driving is known to eat up power at a faster rate, so we planned for a quick charge along the way. Here’s how the longer-range Leaf handled the trip to Philly and back from Manhattan.
Leg 1: NYC to Philly
There are certain times you should never attempt a drive from New York to Philadelphia, but Sunday morning is normally smooth sailing, and we made sure to leave before 9 o’clock. Traffic was no issue, but we left NYC with only 90 miles of charge, so we would need a boost to make it the whole way. We knew we would be charging at some point, so we turned off the ECO button and let highway instincts take control.
A glance at the ChargePoint and PlugShare websites reveals many stations for EV charging between the two major cities, but we were planning to arrive in Philly in the morning and be back in New York by the evening. In this case, only fast-charging would do, and the list of options became very short. We zeroed in on a purportedly free fast charger located on the Rutgers University campus some 3.9 miles off the New Jersey Turnpike.
Nissan Leaf fast-charging for free at Rutgers University
To our delight, the station was there in the town of Piscataway. It was unoccupied, and it was indeed free to use. A fleet of Rutgers Leafs was lined up in the secluded area, with one model charging on a Level 1 (110v) plug. Within 20 minutes, we had gotten the battery to over 90% full, according to the display on the Nissan-branded charger. We were back over 100 miles on the Leaf’s dashboard gauge with only 65 miles to travel left on our route.
In order to use the Rutgers fast charger, we didn’t need to use a subscription to a service provider, so it was the best-case scenario for EV charging. Free power made it even more of a pleasant stop. You couldn’t help but imagine a system in which fast chargers are located right off the highway (or at rest stops) and EV drivers only needed to stop for 20 or 30 minutes to cover the range needed for road trips. The only thing missing is the chargers.
We landed in Philadelphia with about 20 miles on our gauge, so we plugged in at the Barnes Museum charger with several hours of parking in our future. If you’re keeping score at home, that means we traveled 110 miles without paying for any fuel costs. Depending on the economy of a gas vehicle and the variable pricing of New Jersey gasoline, our guess is that we saved over $10 by traveling electric.
Leg 2: Philly to NYC
A Quick Charge Port comes standard on the 107-mile Nissan Leaf.
To charge the battery while visiting with Dad, we left it at the Barnes station on the ChargePoint network. Again, charging was free, though parking was rated at $4 per hour with a maximum of $14. We left the Leaf plugged in there on the Level 2 charger for four hours, pushing us back over the 100-mile mark for our return.
Setting out for New York in the evening, we decided to retrace our path and avoid any unknowns on the way home. That meant another stop at the Rutgers University fast charger. This time, we were treated to a more pastoral scene in Piscataway. A small feral cat wandered the area as the sun set, a couple stopped by the racquetball court to play a bit, and a deer ran across the road on the way to other rambles.
This time, we left with 80% charge (approximately 90 miles) and drove as is our wont (i.e., fast) on the highway with no concern for range drain. Nissan Leaf’s 107 horsepower is more than adequate, and access to the 187 pound-feet of torque makes it a winning car for merging and accelerating at will.
If you know the location of a fast-charger and only have 100 miles or so to travel, this electric car won’t keep you down, though it will keep fuel expenses down. We covered the 210 miles (including detours) at a total cost of $14, which was an access fee to park at the plug. The 107-mile Leaf is ready, willing, and able to master the NYC-Philly round trip.