2011 Chevrolet Volt Vs 2011 Nissan Leaf: 7,000 Miles Later

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George Parrott

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After several months of using a 2011 Chevy Volt and a 2011 Nissan Leaf as our sole family transport, we have a better understanding of both cars than we did in March, when I first wrote about how they compared.

First to arrive at our West Sacramento home was a beautiful crystal red 2011 Volt. We chose the neutral leather upgraded interior with heated seats and the backup camera option, but did not go for the polished wheels.

We had not driven the Volt before taking delivery of ours, and we hadn't owned an American car at all since 1969. We were immediately impressed with the finish on the Chevy Volt, both inside and out. The paint was smooth and all the body-panel gaps were tight.

Our second initial impression--one that has held up over the 4,200 miles we have now put on the car--was how impressive and detailed the feedback is on the electronic display. The Volt even reports the pressure in each tire, and the door-open display is shown in color to warn even more clearly if a door has been left ajar.

We find ourselves usually driving in the "L" range on the transmission, as this gives the Volt more aggressive regenerative braking, so we use the brakes less in this mode.

MORE: How To Make Your 2011 Chevy Volt Drive Like A Tesla Roadster

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with roof solar panels visible; photo by George Parrott

2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with roof solar panels visible; photo by George Parrott

Enlarge Photo

We've always gotten at least the number of miles of electric range displayed after charging. Usually we will get 5 to 10 percent more.

That means we've regularly been getting 40 to 44 miles of pure battery range before the gas engine kicks in. Even for longer road trips, we find that the gas engine delivers 38 or 39 miles per gallon in operation.

The performance and ride of our 2011 Volt feels well-planted, almost European. We've owned several German cars, and the Volt feels German on the road. Acceleration in the Volt is at least as good as in the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that it replaced.

For the first 4,100 miles, our overall gas mileage stands at 97.3 mpg.

The heated seats in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt make my wife much, much happier on the few colder days we have here in California. The car's actual electric resistance heater seems way less effective than regular fuel cars, but the air conditioning is quite good.

The concierge service that comes with three free years of the OnStar service has already been helpful a couple of times.

Our sole gripes are that General Motors missed an obvious feature by not including proximity locking and unlocking (which will be included in the 2012 Volt).

The company also should have made the Volt's gasoline engine meet the tougher California emissions standards. As it is, 2011 Volt owners don't qualify to use the state's High Occupancy Vehicle lanes with only a single driver inside. Nor do we get a state purchase credit as buyers of the 2011 Nissan Leaf do.

2011 Chevrolet Volt summary: GM may have missed a few things, but the 2011 Volt is truly a revolutionary piece of engineering.


Our 2011 Nissan Leaf SL, in glacier pearl, arrived about a month after the Volt.

I was immediately pleased that we had opted for the quick charge feature ($700), as I had to drive the car 86 miles home from the dealer in Petaluma. I was able to use the DC quick charge station in Vacaville (now shut down for public use) for 27 minutes of recharging, which got me home just fine.

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Comments (19)
  1. The company also should have made the Volt's gasoline engine meet the tougher California emissions standards.
    This is totally wrong.. the Volt gets more than twice the MPG of the Pruis.

  2. The company also should have made the Volt's gasoline engine meet the tougher California emissions standards

  3. Perry,
    Sorry to correct your misunderstanding of the Volt's ICE operation, but that drivetrain operation get at best 38-40 mpg after the battery is depleted. Perhaps your confusion is that when AVERAGED with the total EV miles Volt drivers often get in excess of 100 mpg. However that is because they drive mostly short trips and the ICE never has to kick on. I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago, and we are now at almost 5000 miles on our Volt and at just over 100 mpg "lifetime."

    Yet when we take "road trips" from Sacramento to SF, and only the first 40 miles is total EV, then our 150-160 miles on the ICE produce between 38.5 and 40.2 mpg.

  4. Excellent clarification George.

  5. George,
    I drove my Volt for a year on 5.8 gallons of gas...no Prius comes close. I have a wattmeter on the charger.. I've use less than $275 to fuel and maintain my Volt .. 8300 hard city miles in PGH, PA. No ICE comes close and the performance is much better than a Prius.

  6. Wish it was not the 42K car. There is a lot of driving before that pays off.

  7. Fritz,
    I agree completely about the Volt pricing, but at $4/gallon for fuel and IF, repeat IF most of your driving is less than the Volt's 40 mile EV only range, than you could drive 40 miles/day times 30 days = 1200 miles/month and NEVER use any fuel. At today's pricing, compared to what you would PAY on a monthly basis for gas with a typical 25 mpg car you end up saving about $190 per month....that is about HALF my monthly payment on the Volt lease. In "remaining dollars" that makes getting the Volt "only" about a $220/month outlay. THAT might not be such a hard pill to swallow when it goes with totally "emission free" driving?

  8. I Paid $22,900 for my Chevy Volt Dec 2012.
    Total maintenance, gas , electric for 8300 city miles.
    less than $275.

  9. @Perry: Was that the cost of a brand-new Volt? I assume you are netting out the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit, which you didn't realize until you filed your taxes. Does that price also include any other financial incentives at a state, regional, or corporate level?

  10. George -
    Thanks for the write up. I actually live a few blocks away from you and always see you and your wife driving around in the Volt/Leaf. I was curious how they were working out. Thanks for keeping us posted.

  11. I have been one of the lucky few to get to drive the Volt in Atlanta, GM has not released them to sell in Georgia till Fall of this year. But Jim Ellis Chevy bought 2 Volts in New York and drove them down to Atlanta. Even with a non-stop drive from NY the Volts are getting over 130 mpg for the "lifetime".The local news stations have run stories about how GA laws for "Green Vehicles" are not keeping up with the technology. So there is a big push to get the Volt added to the list of vehicles that can drive in the HOV- HOT lanes. I like the look of the Volt better than any of the other "Green" cars in the market. And if I could drive in the HOV lane and miss a lot of Atlanta traffic it would be worth the price tag.

  12. I'm jealous , 2 cars that's very hard to get a hold of, both in your garage.
    I think both cars are great, and headed in the right direction. There is no - One is better than the other. It's a matter of what the needs are. For my life style - 20mi commute to work, and wife having an ICE for any long trips, leaf fits well. Also Access OK sticked for carpool is big deal for me as I commute on 405 into Santa monica.
    The tax rebates in CA (7500 + 5000) also make it a very affordable car with perks like free parking at the LAX , downtown LA meters, Santa monica.
    Im sure most of us would like to hear more about both cars.
    Keep the feeds coming.

  13. George, not to be a stickler, but this implies you are getting your electricity for free. If I might ask, what rate are you on and what is the average cost per kWh (you can get this by simply dividing your bill by the total kWh for the month)? You would have to deduct this from the $190 savings to be a fair comparison. Your thoughts?

  14. @pblauvelt,
    We have a quite large solar PV system on our house. It produces enough total kWh to totally wipe out our actual house electricity draw from the grid, and with "time of use" credits for peak output we bank enough "peak power CREDIT" to more than cover our charging which is done ONLY at very low "off-peak" rates. In the greater Sacramento area, many of the EV early adopters are also solar PV equipped at their homes, so this "free travel" is not unusual around here.

  15. Here is a direct link to a piece that was published by one of the CONSUMER REPORTS staffers on our cars and home.


  16. 12 miles to work? Ride a frigging bike, you live in California!

  17. When are the amercan battery car will go 300 miles? there are carbon batterys that is se to drive these battery cars 200 to 300 miles depending on speed. There are capacty [Ulta capacitys] that hold a lot of Electrons and pack Columbs. so... do it Gene -30-

  18. That's not as bad as I thought it would be, but electric only I'm still beating them. My BAJA BUG does 92 miles before recharge and when I can get Hydrolyzer working with PEM, I'll drive to Florida and back without recharging - then with some development, California and back.

  19. Update...Volt now has 6500 miles with a lifetime mpg of 105 mpg. Leaf is ticking along with 5700 total miles. Our annualized electric bill is due in one month and the running total for the YEAR, all of our house electric use AND charging both cars is now down to $65 (dropped $75 this past month !). This is due to the solar photovoltaic system we have on our roof.

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