If you own or drive a LEAF you’ll want to take advantage of two smart phone apps. LEAF Spy Pro and Waze. The combination of these two apps will turn your range anxiety into a solid range awareness. You will get the maximum from your vehicle.
In this blog article I will cover why it’s useful to use these apps rather than the instrumentation and navigation provided by Nissan.
Range Anxiety is real.
Range Anxiety is often cited as a reason to be wary of current day Electric Vehicles. The limited range of many EV’s, less than 100 miles when fully charged, does require an adjustment period before any anxiety recedes. Even so, when tackling longer journey’s range anxiety can return even to a seasoned EV driver if something unexpected happens on the road ahead.
The LEAF dashboard instruments can contribute to Range Anxiety.
The standard instrumentation in the LEAF shows the distance to empty in Miles or Kilometers which should be adequate to dispel any anxiety regarding current range. However the distance to empty reading on the dash has been renamed by the LEAF community as the ‘guess-o-meter’. It is quite often overly optimistic when fully charged and pessimistic when driving on the interstate. It varies so much some owners find it both distracting and the cause of anxiety. Some go as far as taping a card over the meter so as not to even see it anymore. Other EV’s such as the Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S seem to have much more dependable distance to empty estimates. After 5 years on the market the LEAF’s distance to empty instrumentation is still erratic and has yet to be improved !
LEAF Spy Pro to the rescue.
A LEAF enthusiast set out to develop an android phone app that will provide much more information regarding the state of the battery. Initially the application examined the battery only but now the application LEAF Spy Pro tracks an amazing amount of data from the LEAF in real time. One key feature I find invaluable is the distance to empty capability. Using the LEAF’s average energy efficiency numbers from the dashboard (which is expressed in Miles per kWh) LEAF Spy Pro reliably predicts your distance to Low Battery Warning, or Very Low Battery Warning or Turtle. The distance estimates take into consideration the battery temperature, elevation and the outside temperature, all of which can increase or decrease available range. I find that the range estimates are very accurate indeed and are very dependable. As the seasons change and the LEAF’s efficiency increases or decreases I adjust the Miles/kWh in LEAF Spy Pro to calibrate it to the cars recent efficiency.
Knowing how much range you have left is great, but will it get you to your destination? The LEAF navigation system will tell you how far to your destination, so you’ll know if the remaining range is adequate or not. However the maps are updated infrequently by Navteq and it costs about $180 to update the maps.
Waze is the ideal replacement for the LEAF Navigation
Waze is always up to date. As with many navigation applications such like Google Maps, Waze guides you to your destination. The best features of Waze include dynamic routing and re-routing based on traffic conditions ahead, so you can avoid an accident ahead that hasn’t been announced on the radio yet. It also warns you of hazards ahead such as an object on road, accident or even police. You could use Google Maps, but I prefer Waze.
How I use Waze and LEAF Spy Pro together.
On each journey as I head out I will compare my current range on LEAF Spy Pro and compare that to the distance remaining to my destination. I know instantly if I can make it on the current battery charge or if I will need to seek out public charging.
As I drive Waze may alert me to a better route due to traffic congestion ahead. However diversions often add extra miles. If the diversion is much longer I may no longer have the range to make my destination. Is it worth adding a charging stop to avoid a traffic hold-up? To answer this question I get Waze to calculate and display the three fastest routes to my destination. If the new route saves just 1 or 2 minutes but adds 10 miles I may choose to drive the original route and put up with the congestion if it avoids making an extra recharging stop. If the new route is significantly quicker then I take the diversion and add a charging stop, typically at a convenient Nissan dealer or eVgo rapid charge location.
Example journey to work
Examine the next two images. Notice the range remaining to low battery warning as displayed by LEAF Spy Pro is 29.7 miles and the distance to work is 27 miles. I have 2.7 miles to spare. Doesn’t sound like much, but I am so confident in LEAF Spy Pro it’s as good as having many more miles to spare. I know I have an extra ten miles after low battery warning to empty, there’s the buffer to cope with the unexpected. I can focus on the drive to work without having to check my range or make any mental calculations.
Knowing with great precision at any instant what your current range is and if that is enough to get you to your destination via multiple routes is very useful. You get to use every mile the battery has rather than mentally create an unnecessary reserve you never use.
As you drive you may notice that you have a few extra miles to spare, and if you are in a hurry you can afford to drive faster to make up time. If however you notice the range isn’t quite adequate by 1 or 2 miles, you can slow down a few miles per hour and watch as the range converges on the destination distance as displayed by Waze.
Never again will you worry if you can make your destination or not, nor will anxiety cause you to make an unnecessary recharging stop. Information is powerful!
Other handy LEAF Spy Pro features
Tire Pressure – You may have noticed in the LEAF Spy Pro screenshot above that it displays the tire pressure for each of the tires. If I get a slow puncture (which has happened), I’ll know long before the low tire pressure warning lights up on the dash. Low tire pressure saps range and wears the tires prematurely. You may also notice I run my tires at a higher pressure than recommended. I set them to 40 PSI when cold instead of 36 PSI. I do this for two reasons. LEAF tires tend to wear out quickly at the edges, while the center tread remains good, more pressure will help even the wear across the entire tread extending the tires life. Higher tire pressures are more fuel efficient, extending the range of the LEAF further. Some LEAF owners run the tires at the maximum rated pressure of 50 PSI. I don’t recommend this, the chances of a blowout or a tendency to skid both increase at very high pressures.
Data Logging – LEAF Spy Pro can be setup to save all the parameters it tracks every 5 seconds to the smart phones memory. This data can be uploaded to your dropbox account automatically each day and examined using Excel or Google Sheets. If you don’t have dropbox the files can be transferred to your computer via USB cable or can be emailed. This data can be used for many purposes, for example vehicle speed, date and time are recorded every 5 seconds. If you are ever in an accident you have evidence if you are falsely accused of driving way too fast. This works similar to the black box devices insurance companies offer, but the main difference is you have possession and access to the data, not just the insurance company :-).
Energy during Charging
LEAF Spy Pro shows the energy usage in watts. Not very useful while driving, but very useful while rapid charging. At the start of a rapid charge the charge rate is often 40 kWh but this soon tails off as the battery fills up. If the charge rate drops below 10 kWh you maybe wasting a lot of time to gain just 2 or 3 more miles. If you don’t need those extra miles, unplug and save yourself the wasted time at the charging station.
Its also useful to watch the distance to low battery warning during charging, once you have 3-4 miles more than you need, stop charging and move on!!
Battery Temperature – LEAF Spy Pro shows the battery temperature. This is useful in hot and cold temperatures. If the battery temperature gets above 115 F quick charging slows to a crawl, you are better off using a regular 240v charging station and its kinder to the battery. If the battery temperature goes below 32 F (freezing) you should not charge the car if that’s possible to avoid damaging the battery. Driving the car will warm up the battery, especially if you accelerate briskly. Note that it can be 15 F outside, but your battery temperature will often be well above freezing and safe to charge. Knowledge is power.
GID’s – A unit of battery energy is displayed as a GID in LEAF Spy Pro. The name GID is unofficial and was given by an early LEAF owner Gary Giddings. When examining the data provided by his LEAF, Gary noticed the battery energy was expressed in units ranging between 4 and 281. (Each energy unit represents 80 Watt Hours of energy). He called them GID’s. I find GID’s very useful when the LEAF range gets low. I know from previous journeys if there are enough GID’s to get me home if I take it very easy and hypermile. For instance I know that as I pass McDonalds near home, if I have 55 GID’s left the low battery warning will chime just as I pull up my driveway. The reason the miles left is less useful in this case is because I have LEAF Spy Pro set for an average speed of 60 miles per hour. If I drive carefully at 30 on side streets I can eek much more range from the car. GID’s are my hypermiling guide.
What you need to run both LEAF Spy Pro and Waze
It is possible to run both Waze and LEAF Spy Pro on the same smart phone, but this is less than ideal. You don’t want the distraction of switching apps back and forth as you drive. Safety first.
I use an old Android phone dedicated to running LEAF Spy Pro and wedge it in the cup holders where I can see the display at a glance. Some owners use an Amazon Fire Tablet, they are cheap and the display is large.
I run Waze on my primary cell phone and mount it to the windscreen so I can see the map and miles/time of arrival to my destination. Be sure to get a cell phone car mount to avoid fiddling with the phone as you drive.
For LEAF Spy Pro you need to buy a bluetooth OBD II device. LEAF owners have found the Konnwei KW902 OBD device to be compatible with the application and it is only $20. Download the free version of LEAF Spy first to be sure you can get it working with your car, I recommend the Pro version once you are up and running.
For a step by step guide to installing LEAF Spy Pro and the OBD II device visit this WiKi.