General Motors of Canada began delivering the first Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric cars this month, just weeks after Nissan Canada delivered the first all-electric Nissan Leaf in Canada.
Game on. Now it’s time to sit back and take score of a closely watched sales race between two approaches to fuel-efficient technology.
GM says the Volt is best because you'll never get stranded in a car that recharges the battery using a gasoline engine. Nissan says that, as long as there’s a tailpipe, it’s not a genuinely green car.
The Leaf is the cheaper option at $38,395, less an $8,000 before-tax subsidy in Quebec and an $8,500 provincial subsidy in Ontario. If you buy a $41,545 Volt in Ontario, the province has an $8,230 handout for you; in Quebec, it’s $7,769. No other province subsidizes electric cars. In Ontario, the full subsidy can be applied to a three-year lease, further reducing the monthly payment.
The Volt is clearly the better proposition for consumers who suspect they might be driving beyond the 40- to 80-km battery-only range. The Leaf is perfectly suitable for the urban or suburban driver who does not expect to need more than a 160-km range – the distance possible on a single charge.
In both cases, drivers who go hard on the highway, where the regenerative brakes will do less recharging, might find they enjoy less battery range. You lead-footers will not get as far and, if the weather is especially cold, the EV range will drop, too.
In both cases, when you look past the green allure and techno-geek appeal what’s left are two really good, hugely innovative cars.
The Leaf and the Volt are smooth, quiet and handle nicely. They also are zippy enough in traffic and inside you’ll find just enough whiz-bang gizmos and readouts to entertain even the most early of early adopters – screens that provide all kinds of information and graphics that show the flow of power from the engine to the battery to the wheels and motors.
Few would complain about living with either one. In the sales race, the Volt will win if range anxiety proves to be a serious issue. The Leaf wins if a range of 160 km proves adequate for the biggest chunk of the market.
Or maybe it will turn out to be a tie, with equal numbers of consumers in each camp. We’ll find out soon enough.