Yesterday I went for a little road trip in Leaf, from Exeter up to Camp Nelson. This involves 30 miles of level highway and then 20 miles of twisty climbing to reach Camp Nelson at elevation 4800 ft. To see a map of the route: http://tinyurl.com/44p8pxk
Started off with a 95% charge and set cruise for 57 mph. After a few miles, lowered it to 55 mph. After Springville, the road begins to climb with some steep sections, but the road is twisty so the going is slow. Average speed for the climb is about 30 mph due to the twistyness of the road. The Leaf is actually a great climber, as the electric motor puts out high torque and it is very responsive. One car pulled over into a turnout to let us pass, and instantly we accelerated up the hill and had passed them - effortlessly. I had a theory that the slower going would offset the increased energy required to climb, and it seems to be true. Also, every time we slow for a curve energy goes back into the battery. Those with hybrids are probably used to this, but it's cool nonetheless. Reached Coy Flat Campground in Camp Nelson with one bar to spare, and a 6 mile range estimate.
After a short hike, it was time to go back down. I was really curious how much energy the regenerative braking could recover on the way down. It did not disappoint. Going downhill in ECO mode is like downshifting into 3rd gear - except you recharge your batteries in the process! Based on the display, it seems to regenerate at a rate of about 12 KW with foot off the pedal. Putting on the brakes makes it regenerate more, but I don't know when the friction brakes kick in so I tend to avoid that. At the bottom of the hill in Springville, regenerative braking had increased the estimated range to 22 miles.
Knowing that would not be quite enough to get back home, I set cruise to 40 mph most of the way. I stopped for an hour at a friend's house in Lindsay to trickle-charge, then continued the remaining 8.4 miles home. Just as we entered Exeter, the display changed to triple-dashes. Apparently we got home just before it would have entered turtle mode. Total trip distance was 99.7 miles.
Now, looking back, there are a few things I could have done better: (1) I should have topped-up to 100% before leaving. (2) I should have gone slower - at 50 mph the range would have been significantly greater than at 57 mph. (3) There was a cabin near the trailhead where I could have trickle-charged. Any one of those three would have made it possible to do the trip without having to stop in Lindsay.
The takeaway is that the Leaf performs very well on the hills - and thanks to regen, does not use noticeable more energy than on flat land