The 2011 Nissan Leaf all-electric car has been designated as Europe's 2011 Car of the Year, according to reports in Autocar and other media outlets.
U.S.: Volt. Us: Leaf.
Among others, Motor Trend and Automobile magazines gave the nod to the Volt, as did Green Car Journal, which runs its own Green Car of the Year awards here. And Car and Driver named the Volt one of its Top 10 cars.
(Nissan notes it did not provide a Leaf to those oulets that conduct extensive head-to-head testing, meaning it was ineligible in some cases.)
In the States, GreenCarReports was essentially the sole media outlet to give the nod to the Leaf. In the U.K., however, The Green Car Website also named it their "Green Car of the Year."
Brian Carolin and John Voelcker with 2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
Divisive electric car
The voting process was divisive, Autocar says, with some jurors putting the Leaf at the very bottom of their list.
Autocar’s Steve Cropley, one of the journalists voting in the awards, put the 2011 Nissan Leaf as his first-place choice. The electric Leaf "does more than any rival to 'normalize' electric cars," he said--essentially the same reasons we gave when naming it our Best Car to Buy.
Other nominees included the Ford C-Max small people mover (which we'll see in the U.S. during 2012), the 2011 Volvo S60 and V60, and four vehicles not offered in the States: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta compact sports sedan, the Citroën C3/DS3 hatchbacks, the Dacia Duster economy crossover, and the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva small people-mover.
2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010Enlarge Photo
Why the split?
So Europeans like the Leaf, while the States goes for the Volt. Hometown boosterism, or a reflection of different duty cycles and usage patterns in the two regions? We go for the latter.
Europeans drive shorter distances than U.S. car owners, and often have convenient, modern mass transit available for journeys of more than 100 or 150 miles.
While a recent Volt ad suggests U.S. drivers may spontaneously drive cross-country--we've never met anyone over 25 who's done that--we do put more miles on our cars. Over a four-day Thanksgiving weekend, even one devoid of family visits, we put 600 miles on our Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid test car without really trying.
2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
It's all about range anxiety
With its range-extending gasoline engine, the electric Chevy Volt likely eliminates the range anxiety that the Leaf will undoubtedly produce in first-time electric-car buyers. Of which Nissan hopes there will be a very large number, since it plans to build up to 150,000 Leafs in the U.S. alone during 2013.
At the time this article was published, the official website for the Car of the Year awards had not been updated to reflect this year's award.