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Electric Car Choices: Volt or Leaf?

8/9/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: cars, electric cars, Chevrolet, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf

As Chevrolet revs up for release of its electric car, the Volt, in November, Nissan is preparing for a mass release of its electric vehicle, the Leaf, the next month. The electric car lives.

The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf mark progress in the quest for cleaner, more efficient transportation, but their technology is different (and choice is nice). Although both cars are marketed as electric vehicles, Chevy’s Volt is actually a plug-in hybrid. The Volt runs solely on an electric-charged lithium-ion battery for the first 40 miles, but after that the car switches to a gas-powered generator to fuel its next 300 miles. The Nissan Leaf runs purely on electric power for all 100 miles of its driving range.

Nissan Leaf
The all-electric Nissan Leaf sells for $32, 870. Photo Courtesy Nissan. 

Each vehicle has its pros and cons. The all-electric Nissan Leaf has zero emissions but can only go so far on electric power—and charging stations are few and far between at this point. The Volt’s hybrid power allows it to drive longer distances, but it does so at the price of burning gas and emitting carbon dioxide. The Leaf requires eight hours of charging to Volt’s four, but the Leaf also goes more than twice the Volt’s miles on solely electric power.

Chevrolet Volt
Chevy's new hybrid, the Volt, sells for $41,000. Photo Courtesy Chevrolet. 

At $41,000, the Volt costs more than the Leaf, which will sell for $32,870. Factor in federal tax credits and the prices drop to $33,500 for the Volt and $25,280 for the Leaf. Monthly payments on a three-year lease are almost the same for both vehicles ($350 for the Volt, $349 for the Leaf), but the Volt requires a $2,500 down payment while the Leaf requires $1,995. Both cars come with the same warranty: eight years or 100,000 miles.

If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle, either car is a good option, and both cars are furthering the development of electric vehicles. I’m taking a look (because surely I’m too sexy for my 2003 Civic Hybrid).

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