GM’s Chevy Volt Vs. Nissan Leaf: The Mass-Market Electric Vehicle Wars Begin




The Mass-Market Electric Vehicle Wars Commence

The GM Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf will both enter showrooms at the tail end of this year. And with GM announcing the Chevy Volt price this week, you can finally find out how much each would set you back to live the “the green dream”. I’ll give a brief run-down of the price, specs, and features of each vehicle and try to decipher which might be the better buy. It turns out that they might not be as far out of your league as you may have initially thought…

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

  • Chevy Volt Price: GM announced yesterday that the Chevy Volt purchase price would be $41,000 (they have since dropped the price to around $34,185).
  • Electric Vehicle Tax Credit for the Chevy Volt: The Volt qualifies for a full electric vehicle federal tax credit of $7,500 (bringing MSRP down to $26,685). It might be eligible for state credits as well, depending on the state (note: Oregon is offering $1,500 off, Georgia is offering $5,000).
  • Volt Lease Price: $269/month, 36 months, $2,499 down.
  • Luxury Standard Features: Just about everything, including 8 airbags, 5 years of OnStar, Bluetooth capability, 30 GB hard-drive for music storage, 6 speaker Bose sound system with subwoofer, remote start, navigation with voice recognition.
  • Warranty: 8 years, 100,000 miles on all electric components.
  • Mileage Range: 40 miles electric (gas and emission free) + 300 miles on internal gas engine to power electric drive.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

  • Nissan Leaf Price: $28,800.
  • Electric Vehicle Tax Credit for the Nissan Leaf: The Leaf qualifies for a full electric vehicle tax credit of $7,500 (bringing cost down to $21,300). It might be eligible for state credits as well, depending on the state (note: California offers a $5,000 credit for the leaf, and not the Volt).
  • Leaf Lease Price: $350/month, 36 months, $2,000 down.
  • Luxury Standard Features: Bluetooth, navigation system.
  • Warranty: 8 years, 100,000 miles on all electric components.
  • Mileage Range: 100 miles electric (gas and emission free). No internal gas engine for extended range.

Chevy Volt Versus Nissan Leaf Review

I have been clamoring for electric vehicles for a long time now. The Tesla Roadster (out of most mortal humans price range at $108,000) and the unreleased Tesla Model S (a more modest $49,000 before incentives) both get 300 miles on a charge. So the technology is there to provide a 100% electric vehicle that can take you just about anywhere in a day. But neither the Volt or Leaf were able to come anywhere near that range.

So, I’m conflicted. I like the fact that the Leaf is 100% electric (no emissions). However, the range pretty much makes it a commuter car only, unless you have friends every 90 miles or so that you would allow you to charge up your car on an extended trip.

For that reason, I like the Volt’s extended range capabilities. However, the 40 miles on one charge is not jaw-dropping impressive, especially when you consider than the older lead-acid batteries on the EV1 had a range of 70-100 miles, back in 1996. For anyone with a decent commute, you wouldn’t be able to go 100% electric on the round trip unless you had somewhere at work to plug in. If GM could have just pushed it up to 60 or 80 miles on a charge, it would have provided a lot more convenience.

Both vehicles are cheaper than I was expecting them to be, when the tax credit is factored in (and much cheaper than the EV1 that GM leased in 1996, which was $400-$550/month). If you can nab an extra $5k state tax credit, you’re looking at a $20,000 cost on a new electric Leaf. Not bad for an all electric right out of the gate! The purchasing tax incentives and lower sticker price lead to the Leaf being the better deal of the two for buyers.

With GM subsidizing the Volt’s lease price to make it equal to the Leaf (excluding a + $500 on the down payment), it makes it the better leasing option because of the super standard options and extended range. Plus, it’s easier on the eyes.




If either GM or Nissan read this and would like to let me indefinitely “borrow” either vehicle, I might be able to review in more detail. Make a believer out of me. (Note to GM: I’m in the Detroit area).

Not that either is more cost efficient than buying a used Honda Civic, so don’t blast me on that. But which of the two would you buy?

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