Volt vs. LEAF: Can't We All Just Get Along?

By · July 10, 2010

Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF

I, like many of you out there I'm sure, read the various blogs and message boards that are dedicated to discussions about the upcoming electric cars from GM and Nissan. What strikes me as a little odd is how fans of either of the two attack the other car with extremely negative comments.

I suppose it's because they, to some degree, measure the validity of their own decision to choose one over the other by how successful that car is as compared to the other. Chevrolet Volt supporters write about how the LEAF is an under-engineered piece of crap and how the people that buy them are going to GET stuck all over the place when they run out of charge. Nissan LEAF fans will never let anyone forget that the Volt is a gas burner and needs all the maintenance that every other ICE vehicle needs including oil changes and tune-ups.

It's obvious both cars have flaws as well as many benefits. However one thing all EV supporters can agree on is that both of these vehicles are a huge step in the right direction and they both will help us begin to reduce our oil consumption.

I have been driving my MINI-E 35,000 miles over the past thirteen months and have really enjoyed every mile of it. I think future Volt and LEAF owners are going to realize they like their cars more that they even thought they would once they have the opportunity to experience electric drive. There are so few of us that have had the pleasure of leasing or owning a highway capable electric car and that's going to change real soon with these two cars.

I predict both cars will be very well received and sell at least as well as projected. These cars are different enough that they can both succeed without cannibalizing the others sales. A healthy debate is always a good thing, just remember, we're all on the same side in this fight.


· Sean (not verified) · 7 years ago

You think the Volt vs. leaf war is bad? Look at Camaro and Mustang owners. They have been slamming each other for 40 years. It's just how we think. My car rocks and yours is a POS

· theweakend (not verified) · 7 years ago

This is everythingin life android vs iphone, apple vs microsoft, gm vs ford, love vs hate. I see it like this as live as I am provided a choice I don't care. Cause in this crazy capitalist world at one point one is going to be better then the other and that's why I want choice.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

My problem is I still can't afford one.....plain and simple.

· brian clark (not verified) · 7 years ago

I hear about people saying they drive a electric car...where do you get one?
rav4 electric,mini-E,...where in the world are these folks getting there cars?

· · 7 years ago

I feel for the problem of affording them. Unfortunately, we can't give up on alternatives just because most people can't afford them initially. The only plan that really works for change is to start where we can and then bring prices down. The good news about plug-in vehicles (a viable alternative) is that in the long term, battery prices can drop so that they will become affordable. In the mean time, their very existence is pressuring the oil companies to keep gas prices low in order to discourage people from demanding alternatives. As long as people who would normally buy Lexus, Lincolns, Cadillacs, BMWs, etc instead start buying Leafs, Volts, and Model Ss, there will motivation for the car companies to put alternatives into high volume, low-cost production as well as to expand their alternative lines to more types of vehicles (trucks, vans, wagons, etc)

· · 7 years ago

brian clark,
EVs are very difficult to get a hold of today. Actually, the only new EV that one can buy is the Tesla Roadster which costs over $100,000. The RAV4EV was only sold in California for about a 6 month period in 2002. Toyota only sold about 300 of them. They built over 1000 of them. Some are in vehicle fleets (mainly Southern California Edison and the City of Santa Monica, CA).
BMW only made 500 Mini-Es and only leased them out in NJ and CA back in 2009 on a 1 year lease. One had to work very hard and know the right people in order to get these cars.
The good news is that things look like they are going to change a lot over the next 2 years as Nissan and Chevy plan to release their Leaf and Volt (respectively) in only a few markets initially. All 10,000 of Nissan's 2010 Leafs have been spoke for, however, you can still get on the list for future models.
You can get more information about these cars and their availability elsewhere on this website.

· LEAFguy (not verified) · 7 years ago

Volt or LEAF? LEAF or Volt? Actually, it doesn't necessarily have to be either/or. Why can't it be both? Granted, they wouldn't be the right fit for everyone, but I can see some instances where a family might own a LEAF and a Volt. As mentioned in the article, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Interestingly, in that sense, they complement each other for those reasons.

With the upcoming launch of the LEAF in select markets in December, I found myself more and more interested in the LEAF. Not finding a site that adequately addressed all of my questions, I created a consumer based site dedicated to the LEAF - http://livingleaf.info. If you would like more info on whether the LEAF might be the right vehicle for you, please check it out.

· · 7 years ago

LEAFguy: I agree with the "both" scenario. I plan on having a BEV and an EREV until battery technology advances so that the single charge range will be 250 to 300 miles and quick charge stations are available. I know the Tesla S will have a battery option that can bring the range up to 300 miles but that's going to be something like $20,000 option and the car is going to take a long time to charge at level 2 charging. Even though I use my MINI-E for about 95% of my driving, there are still the few times a year that I need the extra range like this weekend when I'm driving 200 miles (each way) to Vermont and the EREV would be perfect for that.

· · 7 years ago

It'll be both an EV and EREV/PHEV for us too. I think the car makers -- in contrast to many of the individuals who've aligned themselves with one or the other (my impression in going to GM-Volt.com is that there are more anti-LEAF folks in the Volt camp than vice versa) -- recognize that there's a potentially large segment of an also comparatively affluent population with two cars in the garage right now that will want one EV AND one EREV/PHEV.

In fact, I had a guy post to my web site just today who plans on solar-charging a LEAF and a Volt (he, like me, already has the solar system -- he's just waiting on the EV AND PHEV)

Of course, I'm ready to ditch EREV/PHEV as soon as we have 300 mile EVs that are affordable and can be quick-charged without the batteries paying the price for too many of those quick charges.

· · 7 years ago

We have a deposit on a LEAF and will likely stick with that choice, but we would not feel comfortable with a LEAF as our only vehicle, either. Here in the southern California mountains (6100' elevation), it'll make sense for us to keep our gas-burning SUV for the winter months, as we do get multiple feet of snow at a time. And the SUV seats eight and can take us on longer trips. Wait another decade, and we should be able to replace the SUV with a BEV equivalent. On the other hand, if we lived in the "flatlands" and kept only one vehicle, a Volt would probably make more sense at this time.

· · 7 years ago

Your comments are spot-on, Tom. They're two different cars that have advantages and disadvantages. Just like a sedan compared to a pickup truck. Having choice is the ticket - something I've not seen before on any sort of reasonable scale. Very soon we'll have the CHOICE of a BEV or an EREV. How great is that?

· · 7 years ago

It is great. Soon many others will have the opportunity to experience what you and I have and they will see why we have been advocating EV's. You really do get hooked!

· Samie (not verified) · 7 years ago

Agree Tom

The dumb blogosphere posturing seems silly to me, just like the Android vs. Apple junk. What I care about is having competitive choices for consumers and how to expand the market so to better improve technological advances and competition. Anyways, there are two things I will be looking for in the future:

1. Generally speaking, battery electric vehicles (BEV) should at some point be cheaper to make than extended range electric vehicles (EREV) and/or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). This puts pressure on GM to make significant upgrades to the Volt (EREV) in the future, as costs will become an issue if we are to think in terms of BEV vs. PHEV.

2. Battery cost will do down, and driving range per charge will go up. It seems logical that GM must extend the extended range of the Volt in the next generation of the Volt.

· Michael (not verified) · 7 years ago

I don't expect the range of electric vehicles to make any sudden improvements anytime soon. Battery development has been slow, but steady. While I like the Leaf, with the battery range at highway speeds of 70 mph looking like they will be well under 50 miles, I would have opt for the Volt. The Leaf appears better suited to city streets, than freeways.

· · 7 years ago

Michael, the Volt may very well be a better car for your driving needs, but I can guarantee the LEAF will go much further than "well under 50 miles" if you drove it at 70mph.
Nick Chambers here at plugincars.com recently drove a LEAF 116 miles (and still had power left over) and most of his trip was driving 50 -55mph. Driving 10-20mph faster isn't going to cut the range by 60%.
I drive a MINI-E, very similar to the LEAF in range and thermal management. I can go about as far as Nick did if I were to drive the same course that Nick described he did in the LEAF so this is about as close a comparison as you will find. If I get out on the highway and drive 70mph as you say, I can go about 85-90 miles, down from the 100-120 miles I can usually obtain from normal driving conditions. In other words, about 15% less if I drive 70mph as compared to 50-55mph.
What would make you think the LEAF would travel more than 50% less by driving 15-20mph faster. I don't know of any current EV that has such a drastic reduction in range as a result of driving a little faster.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

I can't see buying a leaf unless you only need to drive very short distances. 70-75 miles per charge seems to be the average I'm reading about from leaf owners. Sure they occasionally get more if they are driving slowly, but get on the highway and drive 70mph or so for a while and your not going to get near 100 miles per charge. So you really can only go 30-40 miles from home and still get back. I suppose it can work for some, but I'd like to know that 100 miles is the absolute least it will go, not the furthest. I'd like to buy an EV but I think I need to see one that is advertised for 125-150 miles so I can than bank on 100 without worrying about it. I can live with that. Bring one of them to the street with a 40K or less MSRP and I think I'll take the plunge.

The volt is very interesting, but I'd rather not have such a complex vehicle. There's going to be a lot of things to replace and service on that car. I would definitely do the lease if I was looking for one today.

· · 7 years ago

@Anon - If you're happ with the service and replacement hassles of your current ICE car, then the Volt likely won't be a whole lot different. The Tesla Model S will be getting very close to your ideal very soon.

As for "very short distances." It turns out that MOST (and obviously not all) car trips in this country are "very short distances." It seems silly to drive a car with 400+ miles of range to go 1.5 miles to the grocery store, or to school, or soccer practice or work... yet that's what happens millions of times per day. For the two-car households, one car can easily be an EV without cramping that doG-given right to travel far and wide at the drop of a hat.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Darelldd: I understand the whole 400 mile argument and I'm not asking for 400 miles, just to be able to always get 100 consistently and the leaf can't do that. Most all of my daily driving is between 40 and 80 miles per day, but four or five times a month it's 100 to 120, I've been keeping track. That eliminates the leaf from consideration.

Getting away from all the service is one of the reasons I want an EV so getting a volt is partially defeating the purpose. The model s is higher than I'm willing to pay although it looks fantastic, I don't want or need that big of a car or that level of luxury. A leaf with a 32kWh pack would be perfect for me and I'd gladly pay the extra $5,000 for it.

· · 7 years ago

@Anon - I hear you on the size/luxury of the Model S. I'm in the same boat. I don't NEED a huge, luxury car. I want a long-range, high-quality efficient car that might lack some bells and whistles. But we don't get to make the rules of the game. The folks who have taken the risks to be in the game set all the rules for now. In defense of Telsa, there's just no way to come to market with a low margin, high-volume car. That's their goal... it'll just take them time to get there.

And of course I understand your desire for more range in the Leaf. This is their first offering, and they did GREAT coming out of the gate. It just gets better from here. As for your specific situation - everything is solved, and tons of money is saved if you can figure out a way to plug the car in where you park between trips. We have several Rav4EV drivers (same range as the Leaf) who regularly drive 175+ miles per day. We have a driver a a 2002 Rav4EV who has over 200,000 miles on his car! Of course they accomplish this by plugging in when parked. I'm fully aware of the limits of a 100 mile car as I've lived with one as our main vehicle for the past ten years. And in general it isn't as limiting as it first seems, but there are some concessions to make.

And finally - I also fully agree on the Volt/ICE maintenance stuff. Definitely one of the compelling reasons to go full EV. I was just pointing out that if you are NOT buying a VOLT because of the maintenance issues, then you'll be driving some other ICE with the maintenance issues.

Anyway... the future is bright, and we've just now turned the corner into EVs... and I'm lovin' it!

· · 7 years ago

Wow, haven't seen this thread in months.

Anon: I understand what you're saying, it the LEAF had a 32kWh option that added 5K to the price, I think it would sell pretty well also. I love Teslas approach with optional size packs and hope others adopt this approach also. There is no one size fits all. The current 75 to 100MPC will work very well for a lot of people. 100 to 150 would open it up to another group (and it sounds like you are one of them). As Darell said, give it some time, there are going to be lots of choices real soon.

· · 7 years ago

@Tom "if the LEAF had a 32kWh option that added 5K to the price"

There is no space (unless they cut the trunk space ).

· · 7 years ago

EVNow: Plus it would add more weight and make the car less efficient. I'm pretty sure if Nissan designed it from day one to have a bigger pack they could have made room for more cells somewhere without cutting much into the cargo area. It's going to work very well for many folks as is. I just like Teslas approach to offering optional range and hope others will do something similar.

BMW's approach on the i3 will be adding an optional three cylinder turbo range extender. I'd prefer more batteries, but it will still give the car greater utility for the times you need greater range, and will help to bring in customers you may not have been able to get.

· · 7 years ago

@Tom "I'm pretty sure if Nissan designed it from day one to have a bigger pack they could have made room for more cells somewhere without cutting much into the cargo area."

I'm not so sure. As is the rear seats are raised to accommodate the batteries which forced Nissan to increase the height of the roofline, increasing the cd. If there was an easier way to accommodate the battery, they wouldn't have gone this route ...

· · 7 years ago

EVNow: You know more about the LEAF than I do so I'll defer to your knowledge of the car.

Somehow BMW has managed to fit a 32kWh pack in the 1 series for the ActiveE without losing any interior space or trunk area and that's in a retrofitted ice platform, not a dedicated purpose built EV like the LEAF. The ActiveE is even slightly smaller than a LEAF. The only thing I noticed that they had to do is make a bulge in the hood to accommodate one of the three battery blocks. It may hurt aerodynamics a bit, but I think it adds to the appearance.

· · 7 years ago

For better or worse, it seems that all mfg's have determined that 100 miles is the sweet spot. And my experience points to them being right. Obviously any "sweet spot" will not please everybody all the time. You have those who'd like the cars to be cheaper, and those who would like to spend more in order to have more range. And all those options will be coming. For now - for these "first" cars - the sweet spot is right on target, I think.

We can argue all day about how much range *could* be stuffed into a small car. The fact of the matter is - we can make cars with longer range. We DO make cars with longer range. In the end it is all about trade-offs. How much is the average buyer willing to pay per mile of range? And in those terms I really do think that 100 miles is the fat part of the curve.

· Stephen Taylor (not verified) · 7 years ago

In the short run modest additonal range might come from improved battery technology, that may not take any more room. I ordered a pack of 160 AH Thunder Sky batteries last year and was happily surprised when I was told that if I waited an extra month the same size battery would now be 200AH.

Tesla's new S sedan uses the same size battery as the Roadster, but the new formula (if I remember correctly) has something like 20% more energy.

It might not take too much extra battery space to make a 150 mile Leaf.

· · 7 years ago

Darell: I agree 100% about the 100 mile sweet spot. I think the original poster (Mr or Ms Anonymous) was saying that the problem he has is that a "100 mile EV" doesn't mean you get 100 miles per charge all the time. In fact, quite often 100 miles will rarely be achieved if highway driving necessary or you need a lot of heater or A/C use. This can reduce a car like the MINI-E or the LEAF to a 60 to 85 mile EV. Still enough for many, but a far cry from a 100 mile car and when some new EV owners get their cars and realize they can't make their 80 mile round trip to work in the winter that will be a problem. There was one guy that asked out of the MINI-E program because of exactly that. Sure you can say that we'll always want more range(and you're right) but I can't wait for the four/five seat hatchback that will get 90 to 100 MPC in just about the worst conditions and it sounds like that's what anonymous was asking for.

The LEAF is so close to being perfect(in my opinion). Just a few more cells and 6.6kWh charging would really make a difference. Not to take anything away from it as it is, because it's still a wonderful EV.

· · 7 years ago

First of all, I'll have to agree that the Leaf really doesn't have a 100 mile daily range. I've had the fortune to go out with friends in their Leafs the past 2 Friday nights and clearly, they aren't getting 100 miles comfortably on a charge.

The Leaf is an awesome car, however!!! It feels much more BMW than Versa or Fit!

I will, however, remind folks that it is much cheaper to pay to install a charger at work than it would be to double the size of your battery pack so you might want to take that into consideration.
IMHO an experience, about 100 - 120 miles of 70 mph (real world) highway driving is about the ideal size of a battery as that, coupled with public charging (at 6.6 kW) will handle nearly all reasonable commuting and most weekend errands. While you won't always use that full charge or drive that fast, it will provide enough reserve to allow you to comfortably go where you need to.

· · 7 years ago

"IMHO an experience, about 100 - 120 miles of 70 mph (real world) highway driving is about the ideal size of a battery as that, coupled with public charging (at 6.6 kW) will handle nearly all reasonable commuting and most weekend errands"

Exactly my sentiment ex!!!

We're still a little shy of that in most of the EV's we see coming to market that don't have a Tesla badge on them.

It's really what has me thinking hard about the Model S even though I don't necessarily want a car that big or that expensive.

· · 7 years ago

Tom and ex -

Yes... good points. I guess I got off track answering a question that wasn't really asked. Wouldn't be the first time!

From what I hear, Toyota plans to do exactly what is being asked about here. Their "100 miles" or range in the Rav/Tesla is supposed to be *minimum* 100 miles in the worst conditions. That should make some folks happy if it turns out to be true.

· · 7 years ago

When it comes time to change a larger battery pack, the range extender seems to make more sense.

· · 7 years ago

@Tom "Somehow BMW has managed to fit a 32kWh pack in the 1 series for the ActiveE .."

My guess is it has to do with mass manufacturing. Nissan wants the battery at the bottom for easy assembly.

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