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

The LA Auto Show: Hybrid Battery Replacement and Winterizing

By dancurranjr On December 21st, 2010

The thirtieth meeting of the Milwaukee Hybrid Group (MiHG) on Saturday December 18 featured Wayne Gerdes’s eagerly anticipated report on the Los Angeles Auto Show, lively discussion of new projects for the five year old organization, and comparison of mileage and winterizing methods among the members.

Gerdes, organizer of, advocates ending American dependence on imported oil entirely. He supervised a staff that test drove and examined cars at the LA show, which featured 20 world debuts of new car models, and 30 American debuts. While reporting on the features of the new Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, Gerdes played up mid-size high-mileage gasoline cars, and mid-size or luxury electric and hybrid models, such as the Volvo C30 electric, Lexus CT 200h, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and Honda Fit EV. He expects these cars to attract many drivers who are not interested in the Prius or the Chevy Volt.

“Range anxiety” is a new term discussed at the meeting, a concern to those who will be driving cars powered solely by an electric battery. Randy Mays, a member of the MiHG planning committee, observed that Milwaukee commuters do not have to drive the distances of Chicago or LA drivers, and that he rarely drives more than fifty miles in a day. The Nissan Leaf has an EPA estimated range of 73 miles without needing to be recharged.

Gerdes related that Nissan is experimenting with direct current (DC) Level 3 charging equipment at Cracker Barrel parking lots near the Nissan plant in Tennessee that will be producing the Leaf, which can bring a battery to eithy percent of capacity in half an hour – less than the time it takes to eat lunch. This equipment is not likely to be available for individual home use for several years.

Owners of current hybrid models were glad to hear about a company called ReVolt, based in North Carolina, that provides replacement batteries. A member who arranged a battery swap at the Green Drive Expo in Madison last summer reported paying $1700, about half the price a dealer would charge. Gerdes observed that the company has a good reputation, and offers Gen II cells in replacement batteries, an upgrade from the Gen I cells in older Prius models.

More immediate practical discussion for the winter included use of standard foam pipe insulator material, available at most hardward stores, to block the flow of cold air through the grill. Cutting tubes of insulation in half, then fitting strips into the grill, can save a few miles per gallon.

Debbie Anders’s Ford Escape Hybrid continues to amaze with an average of 40 miles per gallon, and a couple from Fond du Lac reported their Toyota Highlander gets 29 mpg if they keep the speed under 55 miles per hour. Anders and Gerdes trained drivers for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sanitation District in the MiHG Drive $mart program, resulting in a sixteen percent mileage improvement. MiHG Bradlee Fons continues to hold one of the top records, with 88.8 average mpg in his Honda Insight.


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

2004-2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid Electric Water Pumps Recalled

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

Toyota plans to notify 2004-2007 Prius hybrid owners in early December of a Limited Service Campaign (LSC) to replace the hybrid electric water pump, according to dealer documents reviewed by Consumer Reports.

There is a risk that air in the pump bearing could cause pump actuation to be slow, raising the coolant temperature and tripping a Check Engine light (Code: P0A93 with information code 346). This pump cools the hybrid system, not the engine.

Should the hybrid components get too hot, the Prius will enter a fail-safe mode to prevent damage, reducing power.

The work will take about 1.2 hours and be performed by Toyota dealerships at no charge. There are approximately 378,000 Prius hybrids in the United States impacted by this action.

This program will be offered until November 30, 2013.

If your Check Engine light is illuminated, have the code checked and vehicle serviced appropriately to avoid potential problems.

For more information, owners may contact Toyota at: 1-800-331-4331.