2011 Chevrolet Volt Vs 2011 Nissan Leaf: 7,000 Miles Later Page 2

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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In that very first drive, on a cold, windy, and wet February day, it was clear that the heater in the 2011 Leaf is nowhere near as strong as one in the Volt (and the Volt's heater is not great).

The Leaf does have a rear window wiper, however, which I put to good use on the first drive and have used regularly in heavy spring rains all across Sacramento.

As a zero-emission vehicle, the Leaf is obviously "cleaner" in operation than the Volt, and we are committed to being green.  

We use a 240-Volt Coulomb charging station in our garage to charge up the Leaf every night, and we are get 75 to 80 miles of actual range--despite seeing electric range numbers as high as 121 miles when we leave the garage in the morning.

It has been and continues to be frustrating that the Leaf's digital range display is so optimistic at the start of the day, but drops off so quickly during the first 10 miles. Nissan just doesn't have the range algorithm figured out as well as GM does.

(A software update for the 2011 Nissan Leaf is now available that reportedly makes estimates much more accurate.)

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

2011 Nissan Leaf Software Update

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We now have about 2,800 miles on our Leaf, and it's our "go-to" car for errands and all of our around-town trips.  My wife usually has the Nissan Leaf as her commuter car for the 12-mile drive each way to work.

She likes the space, the proximity locking-unlocking, and the visibility the Leaf offers (better than the Volt's). The white car is also better to park in the full sun at her job than the dark red Volt. And the air-conditioning in the Leaf works great.

However, my wife hates the lack of strong heating in the 2011 Leaf.  We had a long wet season this winter that lasted long enough to make May more like February. She switched to driving the 2011 Volt just to be able to use its heated seats to feel warm.

We usually drive the Leaf in "Eco" mode, but switch to "D" for freeway on-ramps and to get more response from the go pedal. Driving "feel" in the Leaf offers less feedback, making it more numb than the Volt, and for us it provides less visceral fun.

The Nissan Leaf is our first choice for city driving and local commuting, and it qualifies for special free parking in Sacramento, as well as access to city charging stations in downtown parking structures.

Because of its great visibility and the backup camera that comes on the SL version, it's very easy to park in tight spaces.

2011 Nissan Leaf summary:  We appreciate how clean the 2011 Nissan Leaf is in operation, but think it could have been more fully "sorted out" by Nissan prior to customer deliveries.  

For the thousands of buyers still waiting for their 2011 Nissan Leaf deliveries, it absolutely is worth the wait.

For electric-car buyers who are still shopping and weighing their options, they may want to look closely at the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' that will arrive in dealerships this November.


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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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