Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt Test Drive Comparisons

By John Addison (8/3/10)

Chevrolet Volt – Test Drive of an Extended Range Electric Vehicle

My test drive of the Volt demonstrates that Chevy is ready to take orders. I settle behind the steering wheel, feel comfortable in the bucket seat, and am impressed with the display behind the wheel, and the 7-inch navigation screen. The Volt looks and feels high-tech.

In 4 laps around a mile test drive loop that included sharp turns and straightaway. While driving, I was able to try the three modes of the car with a push of the button. In Normal mode, the Volt always stayed in the quiet electric mode that gives this 4-door sedan a 40 mile electric range before engaging its 1 liter gasoline engine to provide 300 extra miles of range, depending on driving conditions.

In Sport mode the Volt accelerated faster than I would need to enter any freeway, or pass another car on a country rode. In Sport, the Volt accelerates zero to 60 in about 8 seconds; not as fast as the 4 seconds when I was in a Tesla, but faster than my Nissan LEAF test drive. The Volt had a sporty feel navigating tight corners.

My drive is with Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director for the Chevrolet Volt and GE Global Electric Vehicle Development. Tony has over 100 Volts around the road across the country being put through final paces by GM engineers, and a few out being driven by everyone from President Obama, to big fleet managers, to tech journalists like me.

Chevrolet dealers are now taking orders for the Volt, starting at $350 per month, or $41,000 purchase. Thousands of orders are being made with Chevrolet dealers in launch markets for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. Tony Posawatz said that he expects over 10,000 Volts to be delivered by the fall of 2011. Mr. Posawatz explained that by 2012, the Volt will also be available with a flexfuel engine that can support E85 ethanol blends, and an AT-PZEV.

Volt Test Drive and Vehicle Details

Nissan LEAF Test Drive of Pure Battery Electric Car

I shift the 2011 Nissan LEAF into its normal drive mode, touch the accelerator and start driving down the San Jose streets. The electric car is always silent. It only has an electric motor, therefore I never hear the sound of a gasoline engine.

The 5-door, 5-seat compact hatchback has plenty of room. Sitting behind me is an electric utility executive who is 6″5″. I did not need to move the driver seat forward; his legs are not pressing against my seat. If the car had 4 people his size, it would be a 4-seater, not 5. On our both of the split back seats can be lowered to carry lots of cargo, be it luggage, work equipment, or everything for your favorite sport.

Driving the car was a no brainer. The friendly joy-stick knob gives me the choices of P (park), R (reverse), N (neutral) and D (drive). Touch ECO for the electricity saving mode.

Nissan engineers have been working hard to get all the software controls ready for market. Acceleration, steering, and braking are smooth. Having driving two early prototypes, this time the LEAF felt ready for the average driver who wants the car to respond just like a conventional gasoline powered car. The car feels ready for delivery to the 17,000 who have made $99 deposits with Nissan.

The LEAF is designed for an average range of 100 miles on a full charge (LA4 drive cycle). Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor explained that the LEAF range estimate varies widely with type of driving. When not running air conditioning or heating, 138 mile range is expected in leisurely driving with slow acceleration and slow stopping. Drive on the highway while running the AC during summer heat, and only expect 70 miles. Blast the heat during cold winter expressway driving, and only expect 60 miles per charge. Sustain 80 miles per hour uphill, and the range is even less.

I put the LEAF in ECO mode which provides about 10 percent more electrical range. Push the accelerator to the floor and I automatically leave ECO mode. To encourage electron-efficient driving, the dash board provides encouraging driving feedback. My telematics display grew lots of trees when I drove with careful acceleration and deceleration. Ford was the first with this type of display, growing leaves on cars like the Fusion Hybrid. So in a LEAF, you grow trees.
While driving, visibility was good in the front, side mirrors, and rear view. The LEAF has two large LCD displays, one behind the steering wheel, the other central on the dashboard.

LEAF Test Drive and Vehicle Details

Chevrolet Volt or Nissan LEAF

I am impressed with my recent test drives of the Chevrolet Volt and of the Nissan LEAF. The Volt can be leased for $350 per month; the LEAF for $349. If you buy, you can save over $8,000 with the LEAF which starts at $32,780; the Volt, $41,000. Buyers can benefit from a $7,500 federal tax credit, and tax credits in many states, the result of growing concerns about a nation damaged from oil spills, health problems, and energy security. Currently 95 percent of U.S. transportation is fueled by oil that is refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

I would buy the Volt if I were still in previous position at Sun Microsystems covering several states. The Volt’s 40-mile electric range would be perfect for most days, and the plug-in hybrid would allow me to travel hundreds of miles when necessary, filling-up at the nearest gas station.
Now, however, the LEAF is a great fit for my wife and me. The LEAF’s 100 mile electric range exceeds our 40 mile range need. Living in a city, we are also two blocks from transit which connects to rail, and we are two blocks from car sharing. We are planning to save the $8,000 and buy the LEAF.

Both the Volt and LEAF will meet all the needs of millions as their sole car, and millions more as a second car in 2-car households. Both are roomy compacts, seating 4 and 5 in comfort. Both have backseats that can drop for comfort. Both offer the latest in safety, navigation, smart apps, and entertainment.

The best electric car choice depends on your needs. Investigate each and look for upcoming auto shows and tours in your city.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. (c) Copyright John Addison. Permission to repost up to a 200 word summary if a link is included to the original article at Clean Fleet Report.

8 replies
  1. Jerome
    Jerome says:

    The Leaf sounds like just the car for me, if only it's price were more competitive without relying on government subsidies and tax breaks. I'll bet that it would be about $10,000 cheaper if it were sold without the battery. I would love to own the car but could care less about owning a battery that will probably be technologically obsolete years before the car will wear out. Shai Agassi has it right (betterplace.com). The only use for the battery is to provide the car owner with electric miles of travel. Let Nissan or any other car manufacturer provide the car and let a third party provide the miles.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I had a chance to drive both the Leaf and the Volt during the Plug-in 2010 conference. They both drive beautifully, although the Volt is definitely more sporty. However, the 8k lower price plus the additional 5k CA rebate makes the Leaf a no brainer.Hopefully the other auto OEMs will realize that EVs are the path forward and get far more aggressive with their EV volumes.

  3. Cameron Benz
    Cameron Benz says:

    Frankly, I'd still be leary of the Volt. It is after all, still a Chevrolet, and I haven't really seen much in the way of long term reliability and durability out of them. Certainly not on the same level as Nissan typically. I'm not saying it can't change, just that they have a track record that they have yet to live down.

  4. NYC Air Conditioning & Vent Cleaning
    NYC Air Conditioning & Vent Cleaning says:

    the top car makers must make sure that there is already a lot of air pollution and how best they could prevent it.The emissions have to be checked so that there is a let out of only clean and healthy air.

  5. NYC Air Conditioning & Vent Cleaning
    NYC Air Conditioning & Vent Cleaning says:

    the top car makers must make sure that there is already a lot of air pollution and how best they could prevent it.The emissions have to be checked so that there is a let out of only clean and healthy air.

  6. Nissan Versa engine
    Nissan Versa engine says:

    The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world is no longer just a rumor. In fact, its propulsion system is so revolutionary, it's unlike any other vehicle or electric car that's ever been introduced. And we're making this remarkable vision a reality, so that one day you'll have the freedom to drive gas-free.Chevy Volt is designed to move more than 75 percent of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas.4 That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.3Unlike traditional electric cars, Chevy Volt has a revolutionary propulsion system that takes you beyond the power of the battery. It will use a lithium-ion battery with a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.

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  1. […] for their electric vehicle, because that is one of the biggest complaints right now about the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt.  Drivers love the amazing fuel economy they get while using electric power, but as soon as the […]

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