• Jul 27, 2010
Proving once again the old adage that there's more than one way to skin a cat battery, Chevrolet and Nissan have each designed new eco-friendly vehicles that are set to go head-to-head for sales supremacy starting at the end of this year. Though both automakers arrive at the same basic anti-gasoline (at least to a large extent) result, the Volt and the Leaf differ in more ways than they are alike.

We'll start with the drivetrain. While the Volt and Leaf are both technically electric cars, Chevrolet's solution to the range problem includes the addition of a small gasoline-fueled engine capable of recharging the Volt's onboard battery pack. There's enough battery capacity to travel at least 40 miles before the generator kicks in, but there's no limit to the range after the engine takes over.

Nissan's Leaf, on the other hand, has a somewhat larger battery that the automaker claims will allow for 100 miles of range per charge. After that, there is simply no more forward progress to be had until the Leaf is plugged into an outlet for a few hours – at least. But if going 100-percent gasoline free is your goal, this is your ride.

And then we have the body styles and shapes. Both cars spent plenty of time in the wind tunnel, with extremely different results. The Volt sports a more traditional sedan-like shape and offers seating for four. The Leaf, on the other hand, has a bit of an out-there look to its basic hatchback design and boasts seating for five.

Pricing too is a bit divergent. Nissan has affixed a $32,780 sticker to its electric car, before federal or state incentives. That price will drop to the mid-$20s when a $7,500 tax credit is applied. The General is making its Volt a bit more dear with a $41,000 asking price that drops to $33,500 after the credit. Interestingly, both automakers will offer leases for $350 per month for 36 months.

So, the big question is: Which electric car do you think is the better buy? Make yourself heard in our (totally unscientific) poll below.



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  • 133 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mads,

      GM has confirmed both the 9 gallon gas tank size and the "up to 300 miles" on range estender. That speculation is out of date. It works out to 33.3 mpg on range extender.

      Over 100 miles, the plug-in Prius burns less gas. Over 120 miles a regular Prius burns less gas... And both are significantly cheaper

      If you don't have to go 100 miles at a time (less of an issue with more charging infrastructure), a LEAF burns no gas is cheaper (enough to pay for flights and/or rentals for long trips if you don't have a second car available).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Because of the chicken-and-egg issue with charging infrastructure (not to mention charge times and energy density), from a practical standpoint the series hybrid makes more sense today. And although I see the various economic and technical reasons, I think there could've been much more innovation on the ICE side than just dropping in a (presumably mildly modified) 4-pot aspro Family 0 engine. I would hope if the series hybrid concept is successful that later products could use something far more optimized for this use case.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am not going to discuss the looks of the cars because I think that's not what these cars are about.
      To me the difference is purely in the functionality. The Leaf is the better choice for purely urban driving as 100 a mile radius would do fine for daily commutes. However, a Volt would suit my needs better as I live in a rural area. I would say that the Leaf would suffice for about 70% of the time but I do exceed the 100 Mile limit on a fairly regular basis so the extended range of the Volt suits my need better as I can drive electric most of the time but do not have to worry about running out of juice. Were I living in a urban area the Leaf would be my choice because it's range would suffice and maintenance would be so easy.
      For now however I will stick with my frugal but fun 2007 Ford Focus ZX3....
      • 4 Years Ago
      +1 vote for the Leaf

      Leaf is the better buy from a price point only. Most commutes are
      • 4 Years Ago
      41 freakin thousand dollars for a not-car than might go 100 miles before you're sidelined for 8 hours?

      Thanks, Government Motors. What a freakin' waste of money. Will AlGore drive one? How about (expletive POTUS deleted)?
        • 4 Years Ago
        ** Newsflash **

        Brian Tucker just may be the very same troll Brian that we all "love".
      • 4 Years Ago
      First of all, most of you voting against the LEAF, have no clue about the infrastructure (charging stations) that will be in place BEFORE the cars are delivered. Also, you are so ignorant about what the LEAF's charging system can do. If you forget to plug it in, it will send you a TEXT message reminding you to plug it in. And you people voting for the Volt looks like you enjoy supporting BIG OIL. I, on the other hand, will buy a LEAF to put the screws to BIG OIL and all their corrupt cronies. Before you make such uniformed comments about the LEAF, I would suggest you do a little more homework. :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      what people are failing to realize is that the Leaf take 12 hours to get that full 100 charge. I know myself personally am usually at home for less than 12 hours. get home around 8 and leave at 6 am. so i would only ahve about an 75 mile range and i usually drive more than 75 miles in a day. my commute is less than that but my errands and gym runs, things of that nature put me right around 80 miles in a day. so i would buy the Volt, but since i dont buy new i wouldnt pay the full price, the leases however, sound attractive
        • 4 Years Ago
        "When the juice does run out, you can plug one of three different cables into one of two front-mounted ports: 110-, 220- or 440-volt.The first option is available to anyone who can plug in a toaster, but it provides barely enough juice to top up the batteries after 20 hours of charge time and it doesn't do bagels. The two other options are far more advantageous. An electrician can adapt your existing 220-volt clothes dryer outlet, thus reducing charge time to around seven hours total."

        Where are you getting this 12 hour time from? Autoblog's review says 7 hours on the suggested home charger.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's a really good point! I leave the house at 6:30 each morning, and rarely get home before 6:30pm (and that's only if I don't stop to run any errands on my way home), so I would just barely make the 12 hour charge.

        Although it is worth noting that it only takes this long to charge if you are using a traditional outlet. I should think most customers would opt for the faster charge to be installed in-home (which I think is also subsidized).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Volt. More interesting technology, it may be the future. 30 years from now, of course, but still.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i pick the leaf because i hate the blind and i will kill them with my KILLER SILENT CAR!

      i'd pick the leaf anyway because i go farther than 100 miles in a car maybe 2 or 3 times a year.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You realize NOBODY will cross shop an electric car and a Rolls. I'm eschewing sarcasm because there doesn't exist enough of it in the world to grasp the idiocy of that comment.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes. Because a Rolls-Royce makes a ton of noise...
        • 4 Years Ago
        I hate the blind too. I'll get one and name it 'darwin's chainsaw of justice'
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think American's might want to rethink their driving habits and may have too in the future. Either one of these cars would be fine. We are a family of 6 and we own a minivan and a smart fortwo. We commute to work and take one or 2 person trips in the smart and the van is for the entire family. Are there times when we wish we had two large cars? Certainly, but we make adjustments, that doesn't seem too much to ask for higher mpg and less environmental impact. An all electric car would definitely work for us as a 2nd car maybe even a first. We don't take vacation trips that would require longer range than the Leaf is capable of doing. We fly or rent a vehicle if needed. American's love their freedom to hit the road and go anywhere, that's great, but let's realize that there is not just ONE answer to the electric/hybrid/gas issue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Volt will be a total and utter disaster.

      This car is NOT ready for prime-time and is being rushed out by Obama and Co. for political reasons. Motors will fail, batteries will drain quickly, tech bits will break....just like the GM vehicles of yore.

      Remember the Oldsmobile Diesel? This is the Olds Diesel for the 21st Centruy, backed by the federal government, lol.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Brian

        I like it when you post several times. It gives me several opportunities to down-rank you.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't RAGE bro!

        Seriously, are you real? Let me guess, you would've been ecstatic if GM had simply folded altogether. Yes, you're definitely THAT guy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, it's kinda like saying that the Prius will be a failure because Toyota started having engine failures in 97-03..
        • 4 Years Ago
        Whoa.. people like you do exist. It's scary haha.

        But really, your statement about how this is Obama car is sorta out there and more of an opinion than facts. It's basically your own observation that led to some out there conclusion. I guess hate is a huge factor into your conclusion. But seriously you're scary and creepy, anger management might help.

        I do agree that the Volt is somewhat of a failure in price. But GM gotta start some where, their hybrid technology is trailing behind Toyota, they need something. Just look at the first gen Prius and Insight, they were failure in and usable space but you gotta start somewhere to win.


        • 4 Years Ago
        Brian, tell us how you really feel about GM...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Are you really declaring a car that isn't even on the showroom floor yet a failure, and blaming it on the President. A car that was already designed and being trotted around the country AT LEAST two years before he took office? And not only that, you're saying it will fail because it's like a diesel engine from 30 years ago...

        Wait i'm not done...

        ...from a defunct company as evidence for your deduction?


        Go away, fool.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Wow, the Government Motors fanboys in their mama's basement are working overtime tonight rating down my comments just because I dare to speak the TRUTH about GM.

        The Volt will fail, fail, fail. They won't even be able to move these pigs with these sweetheart leases, except to government fleets.

        Remember the Cadillac V-8-6-4? The Northstar engines that ate their head gaskets? The Dexcool disaster? Just imagine all those things x10, those are the kinds of realiability problems you're going to see with the Volt. But don't worry, the people who brought us the Post Office and the IRS are "helping" this time!

        Yeah, you can ALWAYS trust new engine technology from GM!And everybody knows the federal government is competent! (sarcasm).
      • 4 Years Ago
      The only time a full-electric vehicle makes sense is when you KNOW the range is WELL within your needs. A 100 mile range can get substantially reduced for any one of many reasons that are actually quite common:
      1. Get stuck in traffic
      2. Cold weather will automatically reduce the battery capacity
      3. Extreme hot/cold weather will increase the load on the battery due to accessory usage
      For this reason, maybe the Volt has the edge. Although it offers a far shorter electric-only range, it allows for the unknown. If all of a sudden, some idiot does something stupid and causes an accident ahead of you, and you just happen to be getting low on charge, a full electric vehicle will have you worried, while a car like the Volt has you covered.
      But, as has been said, I'm not so sure there's a whole lot of people looking to spend mid-$30K money on a car that's as basic as the Volt. I guess time will tell.
      Personally, if I were buying an all-electric car, I'd always restrict it's use to rather short trips. That alone, really reduces the car's usefulness to me. So, I gotta say that if I had to buy one of these cars, it would be the Volt. I just can't help being the kind that has to prepare for the unforeseen.
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