The Chevrolet Volt takes on the Nissan Leaf.  Who will come out on top?

Chevy Volt

Can this much-hyped (semi) EV take on the new Nissan?

Performance

If you’re looking for speed, the Volt is probably where it’s at.  The Chevy delivers 150 hp and boasts a top speed of 100 mph.  On the other hand, the Nissan has 110 hp and tops out at 87 mph.

Winner: Volt

Amenities

Both cars can charge to full battery capacity in about eight hours (assuming you have the Nissan charging station).  The Nissan offers a support network, LCD display, helpful charging functions, Bluetooth connectivity, XM radio capability, and roadside assistance.  Volt offers much of the same, including some advice on how to obtain the best fuel efficiency while driving.  The Leaf is a bit roomier, but I think the Volt has a nicer overall look.

Winner: Volt

Range

This really depends on what your driving goals are.  If you are content to use the car for commuting and short distance driving, then go for the Leaf, which has a range of 100 miles.

At first glance, it appears that the Volt can’t go as far; its electric motor will power it for merely 40 miles.  However, after the first 40, a 4-cylinder engine powers an on-board generator, which then powers the electric motor.  The car can then go for up to 300 miles.  GM says that 40 miles will cover the average American’s daily commute, which is about 33 miles.

Winner: Volt

Environmental Impact

Obviously, the Leaf does not burn any gasoline whatsoever, meaning it does not emit carbon dioxide from its tailpipe.  But that doesn’t mean that the Leaf is emissions-free.  It is still obtaining electricity from the grid, and the CO2 emissions from the electricity used depends on the source of the power.  In states where the electricity comes from renewable or low emissions sources, like solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear, CO2 emissions are slight or none.  But burning “dirty” coal puts more pollutants into the air, so the overall emissions varies depending on location.  Regardless, the Leaf wins this battle, as the Volt still burns gas to power the generator.

Winner: Leaf

Price

Here, it looks like the Leaf has the Volt around the neck.  Both vehicles are applicable for a federal tax credit of $7,500, and some states offer more rebates, too.  While Chevy hasn’t announced its price officially, estimates are coming in at around $40,000.  The Nissan is slated to come out significantly lower at $32,750.  In today’s economy, which isn’t expected to turn around dramatically anytime soon, that seven grand can make a big difference.  Also, some consumers might harbor some resentment towards GM for killing the electric car all those years ago.

However, it should be noted that the Leaf needs to be plugged into a special home charging station, which will run about $2,200.  The feds will pay for half of that, but still, that’s an extra $1,000 on top of the base price.

Winner: Leaf

Fuel Efficiency

The Volt: For the first 40 miles, the Volt uses stored electricity from its battery.  Beyond that, its electric motor is powered by a gas-fueled generator.  The EPA estimates that the Volt is expected to get 50 mpg from its gasoline motor while in the charge-sustaining mode.  Its difficult to estimate the overall fuel economy, since the car runs off both gasoline and grid electricity, and the EPA is working to create standards that would make more sense for consumers.  Their closest estimates for the Volt are 85 mpg.  GM came out with some interesting estimates using complicated math that puts the car at 230 mpg.  Upon hearing those estimates, Nissan stifled a laugh and claimed that using that math, the Leaf gets 367 mpg.

Winner: Leaf

Overall winner: Leaf.  It’s not perfect, but when it comes to being a great new green car, the Leaf is where it’s at.

Nissan Leaf

Oh yeah, you know you love me.

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