Did We Err On The Leaf, Or Is GM Volt Boosterism Bashing It?

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Brian Carolin and John Voelcker with 2011 Nissan Leaf

Brian Carolin and John Voelcker with 2011 Nissan Leaf

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Last week at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, we announced that the 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car was the winner of the GreenCarReports 2011 Best Car To Buy award.

That same week, a flurry of other media outlets almost uniformly gave their "car of year" awards to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.

Among those giving laurels to the Volt were Motor Trend and Automobile magazines (owned by the same publisher, we note), and Green Car Journal, which runs the Green Car of the Year awards in the U.S.

In the States, we were essentially the only media outlet to give the nod to the Leaf, though over in the U.K., The Green Car Website did name it their "Green Car of the Year."

We're confident in our choice, which is based on the candidates' overall scores in full reviews published by our largest sister site, TheCarConnection. But we're left wondering what we see so differently than anyone else.

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

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As a car, the Leaf has more room inside, carries a fifth passenger, and weighs less than the Volt. It's also more than $8,000 less expensive.

We explained our reasons for selecting the Leaf, among them that it's a real car, the first highway capable, high-volume, full function battery electric vehicle on sale in this country since ... well, since 1930 or so.

The 2011 Leaf also has the lowest carbon footprint of any car in almost every state (only the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid may be a shade better in those few states with exceptionally dirty power grids).

And we think the range issue--Nissan quotes up to 100 miles, the EPA's formula says it's 73 miles--won't be important for the early adopters or any household that buys a Leaf as its second or third car.

Electric-car owners in Japan, it turns out, spent a couple of weeks worrying about range and then adapted to it and used the cars quite happily, especially when they were reassured that sufficient public charging points were nearby--even though, data shows, they almost never actually used those charging stations.

2011 Nissan Leaf electric car at NYC Marathon, Oct 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf electric car at NYC Marathon, Oct 2010

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In our awards judging, the Volt came a very close second to the Leaf, mind you. It was significantly ahead of the other three nominees: the 2011 Honda CR-Z hybrid sports coupe; the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, that make's first one; and the 2011 Lexus CT 200h, a sporty hybrid compact hatchback.

We were scratching our heads over the Volt sweep when a colleague suggested that perhaps other media outlets felt it was time to reward GM for building the world's first series hybrid, reaching far ahead with a technologically innovative car, and ... by the way ... making a damn good car too.

We're not sure we buy that. These kinds of awards usually take several months to put together, requiring drives by several editors, interviews with the company, and ideally, long-term test cars (not possible for either the Leaf or Volt this year, since they're only now entering production).

But we did wonder what you, our readers, think. Does the Volt award by largely Detroit-based publications indicate a desire to compensate General Motors for taking risks, building better cars in general and, lately, staging a successful and oversubscribed initial public offering of its stock?

Might there even be some hometown boosterism? (None of those media outlets are based in Tenneesee, where Nissan is.)

Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

[Autoblog Green]

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