Can You Drive a Nissan Leaf Across the Country?

Electric cars have been gaining in popularity over the last few years and many automakers plan making more in the future. That being the case, the need for a denser infrastructure of electric chargers is in order, but until then electric vehicle (EV) owners will have to make the best of what’s available. That had me wondering: If someone wanted to drive a Nissan Leaf across the country, could they feasibly do so?

The younger the Leaf, the better

A grey Nissan Leaf electric car plugged in at a charging station
Nissan Leaf | Nissan

If you ever plan on purchasing a Nissan Leaf and one day decide to go on a cross-country road trip with it, then you might want to look into one of the later models. The Leaf made its debut in 2010 and, according to Autolist, it was “the first mainstream, mass-market, fully-electric vehicle made by a major automaker.” That’s right, it came out before the Tesla Model S, but it was nowhere near the specs of one of those cars.

In fact, that first-generation Nissan Leaf — which was refreshed in 2017 – was only rated to go about 80 miles on a single charge. And if you ever driven an EV, then you know that “80 miles” is more like “64 miles on a good day,” since the range can fluctuate depending on how you drive, the roads you drive on, etc. That being said, it could be tough driving across the country in a first-generation Leaf as many chargers are far apart. However, you could probably complete the distance in a newer one.

The second-generation Nissan Leaf could make it

The second-generation Leaf, which made its debut for the 2018 model year, is powered by a 147-hp motor that’s connected to a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery. In its standard form, the Leaf can achieve up to 149 of all-electric range, according to Nissan. However, if you want more range, then you can opt for the Nissan Leaf Plus, which has a larger 62-kWh battery and 214 hp. That version can make go up to a reported 226 miles on a single charge.

After charting a hypothetical trip from San Francisco, Calif., to New York, NY, on ChargeHub.com, it’s apparent that the range-extended Leaf could make the long journey. If you’re able to find DC fast chargers along the way, then you would be blessed with 30-minute charge times. However, if you only opt for Level 2 (240-volt) chargers, then you can expect those wait times to range from four to eight hours to completely charge a Leaf.

Theoretically, you can make it to each station given the car’s range, but the wait times to charge the car might not be worth the trip.

Electric vehicles are still good for short distances

A silver Nissan Leaf EV charging
Nissan Leaf | Getty Images

If you’re still thinking about taking an EV across the country – whether it’s a Leaf or something else – you may want to be sure and map out every charging station stop and hotel to stay at. What is usually a five-day trip in a gas-powered car can easily extend to a week in an electric vehicle, given the shorter range and charge times.

The editors at Inside EVs bit the bullet a few years ago and took a road trip in their 2018 Nissan Leaf. We’ll spare you the details, but they ended up succeeding in covering 526 miles with relative ease, thanks in part to a lot of downhill sections that allowed the Leaf to recharge some of its lost power.

Ultimately, Inside EVs noted that range anxiety is a “thing of the past,” however, they wouldn’t recommend driving across the country in one of things due to the added charge time. So, it’s definitely possible for an electric car to travel across the country, but the real question is: Do you have the patience to do it?

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