The Nissan Leaf as described is an all electric vehicle that must be plugged in to recharge. It does not use any gasoline.
The Toyota Prius on the other hand is technically not an electric vehicle; it is a hybrid. One does not plug in the Prius. The main drive motor is still an internal combustion engine augmented by an electric motor. The gas engine and regenerative braking recharge the battery for the electric motor. If you need more power, when going uphill, for instance, the electric motor works with the engine to boost output. The electric motor is equivalent to a two cylinder engine.
The Chevy Volt is a plug in with a gas generator back up. The battery is smaller than that for the Volt and is rated for about 40 mile range. However, if the battery runs down, the gas generator kicks in. The gas generator is not the main drive motor; the electric motor drives the car. The gas generator recharges the battery automatically.
The Volt has a 9.3 gallon tank. When the battery is depleted and the gas kicks in the total range is almost 380 miles. The Volt has the trickle charge (110V) and the standard recharge (220V) but it does not support the 30 minute fast charge mode. In fact, the Volt does not require an external charging station. It can be plugged directly into a home’s standard 120-240VAC outlet.
The Nissan Leaf is priced at just over $32,000. If you add various options this could go as high as $35,000 although there is a federal rebate of $7,500. The final price is in the mid-to high $20,000 range, about what I paid for the Prius in 2001.
The base price for the Chevy Volt is close to $42,000. Even with the federal rebate the Volt will still be about $10,000 higher than the Leaf. Although the Volt is more expensive it does offer more range. The Leaf, on the other hand, is not designed for long range driving. It is assumed that one drives the Leaf as a commuter car.
The one wrinkle right now is that both Nissan and Chevy are rolling out their products in limited regions. The Chevy Volt is not available in Arizona at this time.
The electric vehicle will provide more opportunity for semiconductor vendors. I could not do a tear down at the test drive event but an EV needs power management, power ICs, and controllers and processors. There is also opportunity for sales in the electronics for the charging station.
Electronic vehicles will likely represent a small portion of car sales for the next few years. It was over ten years ago that the Toyota Prius was launched. Since then about 2 million Prius have shipped cumulatively. Toyota now has several other hybrid models. Other car manufacturers have one or more hybrid models.
Further innovations and improvements for electronic vehicles and the battery technology are likely to occur. In the meantime, my wife was certainly charged up by the test drive. She cannot wait to get her hands on a Nissan Leaf of her own.
For the previous columns in the series see
: Getting Charged Up With the Nissan Leaf, Part 1
and Powering the Nissan Leaf, Part 2