How does real-world mountain driving affect range?
The Tesla Model S is currently the highest-rated electric car on range, at a whipping 335 miles. It’s little brother, the Model 3, isn’t far behind, with it’s Long Range version pegged at 310 miles. Those figures put it on par with a traditional gasoline vehicle. But, like gasoline vehicles, those numbers are calculated under certain conditions. What happens when you throw some obstacles in the way, like a 6,000-foot climb up a mountain pass?
In this video, Tommy and Roman stage an electric car dual between our long-term Tesla Model 3 and the new Nissan Leaf Plus. The latest version of the Leaf is still sold alongside the original. This new Plus model, however, has a larger battery pack and more range. Thanks to a 62 kWh battery pack — up from 40 kWh — the Leaf Plus has a functional range of 226 miles, according to the Nissan. While that’s an improvement on the 150 miles of the standard Leaf, it’s still well short of the 75 kWh battery back in the Long Range Model 3.
Still, there are a few things we have done to level the playing field. After a small amount of flat city driving, the 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus actually had a projected range of 236 miles. Therefore, we drove the Tesla Model 3 down to exactly the same range of 236 miles. Heading up the mountain, Tommy and Roman will use the same climate control settings and drive as economically as possible.
The real challenge is to see which car can drive to the top of Loveland Pass — about 80 miles from our office in Boulder, Colorado — and back with the highest remaining range. In the real world, both cars have access to a widening network of charging stations. Tesla has its Supercharger network, while the Leaf can use a series of competitor charging stations available across the country.
On the return trip, the drive is mostly downhill as Tommy and Roman return to the office. Will the Nissan Leaf Plus or the Tesla Model 3 make the most of its regenerative braking? That is a feature in electric cars which does help to make them more viable for range in real-world driving conditions. Naturally, the Tesla Model 3 has all the technology you could ask for in a modern car, and the SL version of our Leaf Plus also comes well-equipped with things like Nissan’s ProPilot Assist suite of driver aides.
Ultimately, both cars made it back to the office. What’s more, both cars also had a similar sort of range after the 160-mile excursion to the top of Loveland Pass and back. Check out the video above to see how both cars perform.