Chevrolet Volt vs. Nissan Leaf

By dancurranjr On December 24th, 2010

The plug-in hybrid 2011 Chevrolet Volt and the all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf both arrive in dealer showrooms in fall 2010.  Both have been making headlines for months.  Will they both be winners or will one leave the other in the dust?

Let’s compare the two.

Price to buy —  Both vehicles quality for a $7,500 tax rebate

Nissan Leaf — $32,780

Chevrolet Volt – $41,000

Leasing cost —

Nissan Leaf – $349 a month for 36 months, with $2,000 down

Chevrolet Volt – $350 a month for 36 months, with $2,500 down

Leasing avoids sticker shock, and also avoids owning if the technology does not live up to its promise by the time the lease is up.  Notice, I am not using the word ‘lemon’.

Size —

Nissan Leaf – four passenger compact

Chevrolet Volt – four passenger mid-size.  According to the New York Times, the Volt has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze

Fuel mileage and range —

Nissan Volt — has a range of just under 100 miles before it needs recharging

Chevrolet Volt — also can travel about 40 miles on pure electric power, but extended range gas engine provides up to 500 miles.  The Volt requires premium gas, which detracts from fuel savings,

Recharging —  Both vehicles can be charged overnight on a standard 120-volt outlet, in four to six hours on a heavy duty 240-volt

First GM Volts and Nissan Leafs Delivered

By dancurranjr On December 19th, 2010

Just a couple of weeks after GM had originally planned, customers are starting to receive the new Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid that uses battery power for 35 miles, before a gasoline generator kicks in to extend the car’s range. The first to get the car is a retired airline pilot, who picked up his Volt today in New Jersey.

He traded in his old Toyota Prius, which could perhaps be read as a ceremonial changing of the guard as GM bests Toyota to the plug-in hybrid market. But it also makes one wonder how much the new car will hurt sales of existing hybrids, rather than the market for gas guzzling cars. GM shipped the first 360 Volts to California, Texas, Washington DC, and New York this week.

Last Friday, the first Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car with an estimated range per charge of 73 miles, was delivered to an entrepreneur in California. His last vehicle was an electric bike.

SOURCE: Technology Reviews

GM CEO Calls Toyota Prius a Geek-Mobile, Touts Chevrolet Volt

By dancurranjr On December 16th, 2010

The chief executive officer of General Motors used a public appearance Friday to slam the Toyota Prius hybrid, calling the car a “geek-mobile” that he would never want to drive.

The comment by Dan Akerson, who recently took the reins at GM, was partly a tough-talking way to focus attention on his own company’s new electric offering, the Chevrolet Volt.

But the fighting words may also have been a way to say, loudly, that GM is standing tall again. After going through bankruptcy, a government bailout, and a bruising battle with Toyota over which will be the world’s top carmaker, Mr. Akerson’s tone is as important as his specific words.

GM is back on offense.

Taking a page from some execs in the high-tech industry, Akerson bluntly disparaged a rival’s product.

“We commonly refer to the geek-mobile as the Prius. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius,” Akerson said at the Economic Club of Washington, as reported by Associated Press. Speaking of the Chevy Volt, he added: “This actually looks good.”

GM bills the plug-in Volt, soon to arrive in showrooms, as the “world’s first electric vehicle with extended range capability.”

The Volt faces competition not only from gas-elecric hybrids like the Prius, but also from the fully electric Nissan Leaf.

In his speech, Akerson focused on GM’s comeback trail since the financial crisis and the related plunge in US auto sales.

At the beginning of December, the company said sales of its four core brands, collectively, are up 22 percent so far this year, compared with the same 11 months in 2009. Progress has come in all categories: cars, trucks, and “crossover” sport-utility vehicles.

GM has also made progress toward exiting from a government bailout, raising money recently with a stock offering that moves it toward ownership by private-sector investors and a trust for retired assembly line workers. Akerson used the podium in the nation’s capital to thank US taxpayers for helping the company survive.

Akerson said the company still faces a challenge retaining top talent and called for an end to executive-pay caps that the government has imposed on companies recieving federal bailouts.

Toyota, for its part, sold 4,400 fewer vehicles in the US in November than it did during the same month last year. Although Toyota still rivals GM for leadership in the global car market, recall woes have slowed its advance.

In the US, Toyota ranks third in sales, with 15 percent of the market this year compared with 19 percent for GM and 16.5 percent for Ford.

Whatever Akerson thinks of the Prius, it still has some fans. Toyota sold 10,224 Prius units last month, up 2 percent from last November. By comparison, GM had only four models that sold 10,000 or more units in November, all from Chevy: the Malibu, Impala, Equinox, and Silverado.

SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor

First Chevrolet Volts Heading to California Dealers

By dancurranjr On December 15th, 2010

General Motors’ Chevrolet division is shipping 160 of its Volt electric cars to dealers in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and New York this week.

The first of the Volts, which combine an all-electric motor with a small gasoline engine, left the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant on Monday. The Volt was tested earlier this year when Chevrolet shipped 15 so-called “pre-production” models to people who drove them for 90 days under typical daily commute conditions.

General Motors is trying hard to move first into what will soon be a crowded market. Electric cars of various types are scheduled to hit the market with increasing frequency over the next two years.

Several hybrid models from Honda and Toyota, including the popular Prius hybrid from Toyota, are already on the market.

Locally, Tesla Motors  makes a pricey sportscar that is all electric, but its $109,000 price tag puts it out of reach of ordinary drivers. Those who want to haul groceries or drive their kids to soccer practice in a Tesla still have a long wait: it will be 2012 or so before the Palo Alto company’s Model S sedan goes on sale.

Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, has been on a steep learning curve. It has sold fewer than 2,000 cars total, a number that’s practically a rounding error for one of the big carmakers. But it has partnered with Toyota to gain expertise on mass producing cars.

Toyota and Tesla plan to revamp part of the shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont to make their cars.

Nissan also started delivering some of its Leaf electric cars in California this week — Olivier Chalouhi of Redwood City got the first one, though he had to get it via a dealer in Petaluma. Chalouhi works at Fanhattan, a television technology business he himself started.

A second round of Nissan Leafs is due to hit dealership lots Dec. 20, according to the company. Nissan Leaf cars are coming first to markets in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee.

GM says the Volt can go up to 379 miles without recharging or refueling. It combines both the electric motor (for the first 40 miles or so) and then adds power from the gasoline motor as the battery runs low.

Tesla aficionados will no doubt pooh-pooh this reliance on a gas motor, as Tesla’s cars promise to be pure electric. In its marketing, Chevy has played up on the “safety concerns” of drivers who fear being stranded when an electric motor runs out of juice. The company tells Volt shoppers they need have “little concern of being stranded by a depleted battery.”

Dealers in California and the other markets started taking orders for the 2011 Volt in late summer. The car costs about $41,000, but is eligible for some tax credits that cut that to around $33,500.

SOURCE: San Francisco Business Times

Chevrolet Volt for UK sale in November 2011

By dancurranjr On December 14th, 2010

Chevrolet will start selling the Volt range-extender hybrid from UK Chevy outlets in November 2011 and plans right-hand drive from launch. It means that GM will offer Europeans the choice of the Volt or the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera – the Euro spec version of the same car.

Although prices are not yet set for either model, CAR understands the Chevy is likely to be positioned slightly cheaper than the Vauxhall. Sadly it’s not as simple as taking the US price and converting it; that would point to a UK list price for the Volt of £25,500.

‘It will be a higher price product,’ said Wayne Brannon, president of Chevrolet Europe. ‘The Volt will be restricted in terms of volume for some time. It will be a small number of cars for 2012 and we will not sell an impressive number – but it will gain credibility for the Chevrolet brand over here.’

Where can I buy my Chevrolet Volt in the UK?

Brannon said that the Volt would be sold from around just 50 of the existing Chevrolet dealerships across Europe, with just a handful in the UK rather than at all 150 showrooms.

Sales are likely to focus around the larger metropolitan conurbations, such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. ‘That’s where the early adopters and people who drive low-mileage commutes of 40 miles or less are most likely to live,’ said Brannon.

Chevrolet is undertaking a European pricing study at the moment and will announce the European cost for the Volt at the 2011 Geneva motor show.
Chevrolet Volt: the background

There’s a buzz around the so-called range-extender hybrids, as they bridge the gap between full electric cars and hybrids. They remove ‘range anxiety’ as the battery will never go flat in day-to-day driving; the on-board internal combustion engine is used primarily as a recharger to top up the battery, rather than to turn the wheels.

That brings many advantages, and owners who use the car to commute short distances and plug in the Volt overnight to charge may have to fill up with petrol only once a year. However, it also means that they are lugging around a heavy and compromised combustion engine in what is essentially an electric car.