Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chevy Volt vs. Nissan Leaf

Rally car battery sticker
I admit there are many other competitions out there when it comes to green vehicles (namely the Prius) but these are the two that I'm really thinking about when it comes time for my next new car. They both have the advantages and disadvantages. 

Nissan Leaf

The Leaf a a true electric vehicle. There is no gas or other fuel that you put in it other then electricity which is stored in batteries. This is a great. I mean, just like any other electric vehicle, how green it is really depends on where you get the electricity from. Ideally you have solar panels or wind turbines and it's totally zero emissions. But if you plug it in you wall then coal or natural gas (maybe nuclear) is being burned to get those batteries filled. It is still going to cost you much less per mile then gas though.

The trick is that depending on the weather it sounds like the Leaf can go 80-120 miles per charge on new batteries. For most people in America this will definitely take care of their daily commute which is great. You can plug in every night and just run off the batteries to get to work and back and you are set. The trick is if you want to take it on vacation you are not going to make it. You are still going to need a back up gas car for something like that, unless you have a series of friends 100 miles apart along your route to the beach that will allow you to plug your car in overnight!

Chevy Volt

The Volt is also an electric car but it can burn gas as well. The difference between the Volt and the Prius model though is that the gas is used to generate electricity to run the electric motor, which the Prius is a true Hybrid of gas engines and electric motors. Basically the Volt will go about 40 miles on a full charge and then switch over to the gas and give you average gas mileage. It's range is shorter then the Leaf mainly because it has the added weight of the gas engine. It's a give and a take.

Even the 40 miles is enough for many American's round trip commute. Even if it isn't most people will only use a very little bit of gas for the end of their trip each day. The other perk is that you can take the Volt on long road trips if you like. You'll drive the first 40 miles on the battery charge and then change over to gas. Then it's just like a gas engine vehicle for the rest of your long road trip. But you have the option of long trips and don't need a back up vehicle with the Volt.

So it's a give and take depending on how long your daily commute is and if you need to use it as your only car and would be stuck having to rent a car if you wanted to go on a long trip. I'm really torn and don't know which I'll choose. My wife and I both need a car so we would have the option of buying a Leaf and having the other car be a gas engine which we'd take on long trips. I also don't have solar panels or a wind turbine at the rental home we have now so that is a concern for me as well. But realistically if you compare the coal/natural gas electricity to the gas from the pump the impact is still bad. At least with the electric car we've have the option of finding a zero emission source where with gas there is no such thing. In a couple years when we buy a new home I am planning to incorporate solar panels so hopefully it'll be a non issue then.

I'm excited with either option really but I'm really torn. As I think of it maybe I would go with the Leaf first, and then when it's time for the 2nd car to be replaced go with the Volt. Then which ever of us that has the shorter commute could drive the Volt and the Leaf would go for the longer commutes (either way the Leaf would be enough for either of out daily commutes). Then when we want to drive on a longer trip for vacation or work we would just take the Volt.

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