Nissan Leaf vs Chevy Volt

To most gearheads, owning an electric car would be like having a giant boil, on your face. They’re not perceived as cool. And that whole ‘Range Anxiety’ thing sounds about as much fun as breaking both arms, then getting hives, and the crabs. But the EV has come a long way in the last 5 years. So let’s see how compelling a car can be when it’s powered by Ben Franklin juice. Nissan Leaf vs Chevy Volt, time to compare cars!

2012 Nissan Leaf

The 2012 Nissan Leaf is the first truly mainstream electric vehicle to be produced in recent memory. It’s not shaped like a space robot. It’s bigger than a phone booth. And it doesn’t drive like an electric wheelchair. Kudos Nissan.
Nissan Leaf

Unlike the Tesla, the Fisker, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the 2012 Nissan Leaf was designed to fit into middle-America. It looks like a forward thinking hatchback, and it drives like one too. There’s plenty of power and low-end torque from the Leaf’s 80-kW electric motor. And that electric motor/transformer lives under the hood, where you’d expect the engine to be. It even has a top-piece that looks like a valve cover, a regular car battery sits to the right of that, and the whole thing look like, well, an engine bay.

Nissan tried to make the 2012 Nissan Leaf look and feel like, just another gas-powered hatchback The idea is to make a cutting edge technology feel familiar. That way, more people will be willing to adopt the electric car as a real life transportation appliance. “The 2012 Nissan Leaf, coming soon to a Best Buy near you”.

That electric motor produces the equivalent of 107-hp & 207 lb-ft of torque. All that torque makes the 5-door hatch feel decently responsive. It’s not pin-you-to-the-seat quick, like a Tesla. But the 2012 Nissan Leaf isn’t a bad way to get around town. Just make sure to park near a plug.

Nissan says their 2012 Nissan Leaf is capable of traveling 100 miles on a full charge. This however, is based on an EPA laboratory test. Realistic figures are in the 70-75 mile range, and that’s fine for most customers. Average urbanites travel 40-50 miles per day, and the Leaf is perfectly suited to life as a commuter car. There’s plenty of sound insulation to block out road noise. And it’s sprung softly enough to absorb most road imperfections.

As the Pulitzer-winning auto journo Dan Neil explained; the Nissan Leaf is a perfect daily driver for those who also have a exciting car, or a nice SUV/family car. You can drive to work cheaply and comfortably, then use your other car for trips, or enjoyment. After a week in the isolation chamber that is the 2012 Nissan Leaf, you’ll appreciate your other car a whole lot more.

Fast Facts: 2012 Nissan Leaf

Range; 73 mi (est)Time to charge; 7 hrs with 240v home charger, 30 minutes at a high-voltage charging station, 14 hrs with 110v plug. A solar panel system (called SunPower) is also available to power your home charger.

Other features; A smartphone app to remotely control charging & HVAC. A roof-mounted solar panel to power headlights, HVAC & stereo. Navigation shows range/charge station overlay on map, and warns you if your chosen destination is outside of the vehicle’s current range.

Of note; The $7,500 federal tax credit only reduces your current tax bill. It is not rebate, and it will not trigger a refund if you owe less than $7,500 in the year that you buy the car. We recommend consulting with your accountant before purchase

2012 Chevy Volt

Like the asphalt-shredding Dodge Viper, the 2012 Chevy Volt is the brainchild of automotive impresario Bob Lutz. With an eye on the future, Mr. Lutz (who was in charge of Global Product Development for General Motors at the time) envisioned an electric car, that didn’t have ‘range limitations’. To that end, the Volt was designed to be propelled by a 149-hp/273 lb-ft electric motor. The kicker is, you can plug the car into a wall outlet and get 35 miles of electric driving. Or, you can go for an additional 340-miles using the 1.4 liter gas engine as a generator to charge the electric motor. Brilliant Bob.

Chevy Volt

So we have a plug-in EV, with its own onboard generator. Great. Drive to work, plug it in. Drive to the mall, the beach, grandma’s house, it doesn’t matter. Your EV will get you there. It even drives nicely, like an old Pontiac Grand Prix. And the all-digital, touch-sensitive, multi-tone interior gives us some indication of what car interiors will probably look like in 10 years.

Now, you may think that the Chevy is a 5-passenger sedan, but it’s not. The 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack lives in a tunnel that runs through the center of the car. So you get 4 seats, and a front-to-rear center console. You can also fold the rear seats flat, increasing the 10 cu-ft trunk area (it’s a hatchback too).

The 2012 Nissan Leaf by contrast, mounts its flatter 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in the floor. This nets 5 passenger seating, 14.5 cu-ft of ‘stuff room’ behind the rear seats, and 24.5 cu-ft of room with the seats folded. And since we’re comparing the two EVs, the 2012 Chevy Volt has a top speed of 100mph, and the 2012 Nissan Leaf will do 90 mph at full-steam. However, such risque behavior will almost certainly kill that little ‘efficiency tree’ that grows on the Leaf’s dash display.

Fast Facts: 2012 Chevy Volt

Range: 30-35 miles on electricity alone, 375 total miles with gasoline charge. 35 city / 40 hwy under gasoline charge power.

Time to charge: 4 hrs on 240v home charger, 10 hrs on 110v outlet. Gasoline tank capacity is 9.3 gallons.

Other features: A smartphone app to remotely control charging & HVAC, gasoline motor never powers the front drive wheels directly, only the electric motors.

Of note; The $7,500 federal tax credit only reduces your current tax bill. It is not rebate, and it will not trigger a refund if you owe less than $7,500 in the year that you buy the car. We recommend consulting with your accountant before purchase.

So there you have it. The 2012 Chevy Volt & 2012 Nissan Leaf are certainly two of the most important cars to be introduced in a very long time. Driving an electric vehicle is a lifestyle choice, and it’s not for everybody. But if your daily commute falls within the mileage range of an EV, then these are the two cars you should look at.