Which Will Sell More: Volt, Leaf, Or Plug-In Prius?

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Felix Kramer and his fleet: Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Plug in Prius

Felix Kramer and his fleet: Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Plug in Prius

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In the quest for efficient mobility, there are three major players currently battling for top spot.

The 2012 Nissan Leaf, 2012 Chevrolet Volt and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In all have one main aim--efficiency--but all go about reaching that aim in different ways, which also means that each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

But in the long-term, which of the three is most likely to succeed? We're turning to you, our readers, and asking: which do you think will sell the most: Volt, Leaf, or plug-In prius... and why?

The Volt and Leaf have obviously had quite a head-start over the $32,760 plug-in Prius, having both been on sale for more than a year now.

Sales of each has been fluctuating over the past year, with the initial advanatage going to the $35,200 Leaf. In the first few months of both being on sale, Leaf sales soared above those of GM's hope, but more recently the $39,145 Volt has struck back.

Is this a sign that customers are still unsure of all-electric propulsion, and are happier taking the safe middle-ground of a range-extended vehicle? That being the case, the cheaper (and already fast-selling) plug-in Prius might be more of a success than either.

Toyota's safe approach of enhancing a car that already has a strong reputation--the regular Prius hybrid--could see it becoming a runaway success. The Prius is already a highly efficient car by the standards of most internal combustion vehicles, and giving it a few miles of useful electric power seems like an intelligent way of meeting the needs of most drivers. Initial sales have already begun to outpace the Volt and Leaf... but will it continue?

Drag race between Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf electric cars (The Fast Lane)

Drag race between Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf electric cars (The Fast Lane)

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Even running costs aren't so clear-cut. Back in April we looked at the relative cost per mile of the plug-in Prius and the Chevy Volt, and it showed that if you regularly drive between 16-65 miles, the Volt is cheaper to run, owing to its extra electric range. Below and above that, the Prius's lower MSRP and better economy swings the balance.

Of course, with rising gas prices, the all-electric, zero local emissions Leaf may be cheaper than either for some drivers...

One reader has already chosen their bed and bought the plug-in Prius, but all factors considered--cost, efficiency, looks, practicality, driving and emissions--which would you choose?


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Comments (63)
  1. Eventually i think the PiP will sell more but only because its not really an EV. it is more of an extended hybrid or a Prius Plus maybe. Besides even with Nissan's max capacity for 2013, the Prius will still have a greater volume potential but this does not mean that the Prius is a better choice. it simply means that most people cannot jump into EVs with both feet. i think its great the Toyota is doing this because it will only cause more people to make the leap to 100%

  2. Comparing the EV range from 10 to 100, and forgive the analogy, the PIP is a one night stand. I mean, what round trips are 10 miles?

    I can see people opting for Volt over Leaf due to the "comfort" of not worrying at all about range, but at the price tag?

    For me, it's the Leaf. You make a simple commitment to go fossil fuel free and keep our $'s here. And buy a car that doesn't need BOTH EV and gas engines under the hood. And, after what Chevy did to the EV1, I'd never trust them again. (They thought we'd forgotten?)

  3. Persoanlly, I'll agree with David and hope all models sell well. Volume in the market is critical and all choices out there help the infrastructure get developed, as well as help with technical development as well.

    As for the usual EV1 hysteria, get over it already. Most OEMs destroy test vehicles so the technology isn't obtained by rivals. BMW and others still do the same exact thing, of course. Apparently, GM (not Chevy), should have lost roughly $70k per vehicle when gas was cheap, there was no market yet and others knew the same and didn't even bother. GM lost an incredible amount of money, so was it just supposed to continue losing money? Should it have shared its knowledge when its rivals don't? Unrealistic and silly.

  4. Look what happened to them anyway!

    Get over it already? Ok, you're rude.

  5. I agree with robok2. I am tired of people keep bringing up the EV1 story. EV1 was a protype. It is no different from the Honda's clarity (lease only) or some of the test car program out there. The battery technology just wasn't there. Ever wonder why Toyota RAV-4 EV cost over $50k with today's technology?

    If you want to blame, blame the average consumers for NOT wanting to pay $50k more for a limited range EV.

  6. Way to completely avoid the issues addressed in my post, Tracy. Rude or not, it's clear you don't have an intelligent response to offer, anyway. Well, other than the "GM should have lost billions on EVs even though nobody else was then or even is not 17 years later. And they should give out their intellectual property even though nobody else does it, either."

    In the end, that's about all you've got, isn't it? Please, examples, too... What other OEM has since given away its EV knowledge? I think the answer you're desperately trying to avoid giving is still "Nobody."

    But facts aren't what people like you use, are they?

  7. I bought a Volt after owning a 2010 Prius, best I could get out of it was 52mpg, my commute drive is 38miles, which leaves me 10miles for after work run arounds. For me the Volt is the perfect car. No range worries. Around SoCal when I got to a location with a Charger, they are usually used now.

    Talking to a Leaf owner waiting for one of the other Leaf owners to return, he was going to have to stop on the way home to charge, or not make it. Lucky for him Mitsubishi has a DC fast charge on his way home.

    I have drive 3 months and only used 5gal of gas!!

  8. Ugh, need edit mode to correct posts..

  9. Why does it matter? I myself have owned a leaf for the past year and loving it every day. Because it works for me. That's not to say it's for you too. But I believe there is room for all these cars to be successful. Why must we place one above the other. Nissan still selling every one built world wide. That they are sharing more of that production to get it worldwide is no indicator of how well it is doing here. Some drive Fits, Prius, and Leafs while others drive BMW, Audi's, Porche's. They all make money and they all sell. Room for everyone. I myself just got tired of the instability of my budget due to rise of gas. It's stable now. I no longer care how much gas is and buy shopping only paying $0.0875/Kwh getting 4 Miles/Kwh

  10. Leaf: elegant engineering appealing so far mostly to a small core of true EV believers willing to accept it's limitations (and looks?).
    Volt: the practical (cynical?) choice for those in the market for a lease car. Frankenstein engineering but at almost the same monthly payment no range limitations and let the lease company worry about possibly very expensive repairs to this extremely complex GM product.
    PIP: babysteps based on the rock solid Prius heritage. Not my cup of tea but maybe appealing to a broader audience than the more "hardcore" EV propositions.

  11. I think this is a pretty solid summary overall. I would disagree with the Frankenstein engineering comment, but we all have our opinions, of course.

    I think the Volt makes more sense for now, but in any case, the volumes in 3-4 years interest me much more than the short-term battles.

  12. As a single car household the Leaf (or any 100% EV) would be out of the running. Between the Volt and the PIP I favor the Volt. At a car show I had the chance to do short test drives of the Volt and then a Prius. The Volt far out performed in driving feel compared to the Prius.

    Of course the apartment complex I live in makes it really logistically impossible to have any plug in.

  13. Leaf. Other two are still tied to a gas pump. Go electric or get off the pot!

  14. Thank you, Rick, for putting it so eloquently!!!

  15. Tracy,

    Your ideals are NOT realistic for most people. Leaf is a great car, but most people still want to have the freedom of traveling farther. Leaf will never be able to get you from SF to LA in one day. That is fear that kept MOST people from driving a Leaf...

  16. Volt is about freedom. If your commute fits the Volt, then you can be virtually gas free for life.

    The problem with Nissan Leaf is that you can NOT get from SF to LA in one day...

  17. I don't know what will sell more, but I'm buying a Tesla Model S! :)

  18. Starting this coming Monday, I start a new job and will be averaging, my boss says, 225 miles per day. That means a plug-in car is well out of the question. The company is supplying me with a new company car, a 2.0 diesel Jaguar XF sedan, shipped here from France. So in a few weeks I will feel educated enough in the diesel vehicles economy to give you all a blow by blow account.

  19. A VW TDI Diesel would give you very good MPG, Jag is a pretty big vehicle, but interested to hear your MPG

  20. Diesel MPG will be great. But on average, Diesel is still dirtier until you run it on bio diesel.

  21. You need to move close to work, or get a plane.

  22. In response to the incorrect numbers I've seen on the Volt-

    1. I've had a Volt for 2 months now and have yet to get below 45 miles on a charge, and average around 53 miles/charge. This weekend, I got 65 miles on one charge (while using the AC). The range drops considerably when you drive on the highway, but at 75 mph for a portion of one of my trips, I still was set to average around the 35 miles the EPA and others state as what to expect from one charge.

    2. My fuel efficiency has exceeded 40 mpg. I've only needed fuel when on long trips, meaning most my fuel miles have been highway, but, even so, I get just under 45 mpg when on the highway. Further, fuel miles recharge the battery a bar or two, which further increases fuel efficiency.

  23. The EPA always under estimates the miles. I assume it is because of winter and the inefficiency of the heater and the way you drive (as in you are a hyper miler). I get better MPG than my car is rated. It is rated 38 highway. I get 45-50. The leaf is rated at I believe 73 by the EPA but you should get 100 unless its snowing and you want it nice and hot.

  24. Jay, I've had the Volt for about the same length of time and my experience has been much closer to the official numbers. I average about 45 miles per charge, but only if I drive very calmly and never use A/C or the heater. On a cold day last week, I got only 33 miles, my lowest yet.

    Of the 2-3 Volt owners I asked locally, not one of us has ever gotten 65 miles on a charge, much less while driving highway speed and using the A/C.

    OTOH, the gas mileage is very good and I agree. I get 40+ on the rare occasions I need gas.

    Still love the car but rather than call the EPS's numbers incorrect, how about just acknowledging the test cycle is the test cycle? It's compared with other vehicles on the same exact cycle, so I'd say it's eminently fair.

  25. I average 48miles on my Volt in SoCal, that with Air set to Eco mode. I feel I don't over baby the acceleration, like I always did in the Prius, to squeek out 52mpg.

  26. I disagree but also need to clarify a few things. First, my 65 mile trip last week was not on the highway at all. The majority was at 40 - 42 mph with few stops, and in "L" mode. I had the AC on, set to about 75, but on Eco. Also, I live in Florida, and the outside temperature I believe was around 85.

    The problem with the EPA numbers is that it assumes the average Volt driver is the average driver of all cars. That's not true. Because Volt efficiency varies greatly by daily miles and highway miles, those who have low daily miles and low highway miles disproportionately purchase the Volt.

    I drive almost all city miles, and commute about 25 miles per day. At the end of my day, every day, I have about a half of the battery left.

  27. So basically, Chevy engineers have created Perpetuum Mobile though it's not as good as my idea of using one LEAF to tow (recharge) the other and keep switching them back and forth to get unlimited range :-)

  28. I went with the Prius Plug in and love it. Got 91mpg on my 35 mile Los Angeles commute. And I promise its not all downhill. Plus it has all the amenities any car owner would want.

  29. If you have a limited budget, second car and/or limited life style, then Leaf is the way to go.

    If you have a very long commute and rountinely drive more than 80 miles per day and do NOT care about performance (prefer to drive like Grandma), then Prius Plugin is for you.

    If you have "normal" commute distance, loves driving and want to have the "freedom" to choose your driving style, distance and whether you use electricity or gas, then Volt is for you.

    Personally, I choose the freedom -- Volt. When I am 68 and retired, I might consider the Prius Plugin.

  30. Right on the money $$$, Xiaolong

  31. The Prius. People like to drive a car that everyone will see and say "That person is saving gas and cares about the environment." People also have way to much range anxiety. They all want to go to grandmas once a year without stoping for half an hour to charge at Walgreens. Because Toyota makes the best cars and the fact that they building on a great car they have had for years (that isn't ugly like the Leaf) gives them another great advantage. Now if GM put a Cadillac badge on the Volt, maybe it could change something up a bit. And if Nissan would throw the Leaf battery pack in there 11k Versa that comes with AC and thats about it, maybe it would be more affordable and people would want it. It would be pretty that way too.

  32. Randy ... all EV's except Tesla are UGLY.

    What do you mean "if Nissan would throw the Leaf battery pack in there 11k Versa?" Do you mean their? Even then I don't know what you are talking about.

  33. Donate extra money for a tesla, the one percent should be considered irrelevant, and so should their cars. Anyone who can spend over $40,000 on a car should be forced to buy a less expensive car and donate the rest. Who cares if it's electric or a hybrid if it costs over $40,000? Do you really want to save money? Do you really want to help the environment? Yeah right.

  34. I'm all for spreading the wealth Ronald Reagan-style but that "forcing" part sounds a bit too extreme :-) Concentration camps for non-compliance?

  35. When I see a Prius, I say "That is one slow driver, I better get around that car."

    I only say "That person is saving gas and cares about the environment." when I see a person on a bike trying to go up on a hill near the Bay Area on the way to work...

  36. VERY, very good point, Xiaolong.

    But, for many of us, our commute is greater than even a bike and safe bike routes are few and far between.

  37. when I will work, I will buy a Volt, then buy a Nissan Leaf, Porsche 911 Carrera S 991 and Porsche 918 Spyder

  38. That's some good yuppie work you've got lined up! Congratulations! But a nice shiny Corvette ZR1 would complete the mix.

  39. I have to disagree Randy, I have a Prius 2010 (not PIP), it is noisy, vibrates, and feels cheap (I bought the loaded model with Solar, Leather, etc).

    Go drive a Volt (quality is amazing), it is solid, quite, fast, good looking and if you fit the Volt's profile for EV mode, just stands out over PIP and the Leaf.

    If I could have a second EV, say for my wife, I would get a Leaf. This way I can go anywhere I want with the Volt and then have a pure EV for most other driving scenarios

  40. Volt is also made in the USA (yes, some parts are imported). Doesn't that matter anymore to anyone?

  41. John, to be honest, it's a minor concern for me since none of the German cars I usually favor are made here. Assembly is no more than 15-20% of the total impact, so rather than where it's made, it's really where it's engineered that makes a difference in terms of economic impact. Both would be nice, but again, a minor issue to me.

  42. There are more comments in this thread
  43. As to the question which model will sell best, I don't have a working crystal ball - but for myself, the Nissan Leaf will work better. I live in the Pacific Northwest, which in my area is mostly cheap hydro power ... and I drive an average of 12 miles or less per day. The obvious cost advantage of clean electricity, plus virtually zero maintenance expense of a pure electric, makes the choice clear for me. We also have a hybrid second car, for any long range trips.

    I was originally interested in the upcoming Toyota Rav4 EV, but extremely disappointed in Toyota's weak entry into the electric market, and will probably decide to purchase the Leaf instead. I appreciate Nissan's dedication to promoting the electric platform.

  44. From what I have read, the Rav4 EV is a limited production vehicle, check out the article at http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1075962_2012-toyota-rav4-ev-electric-suv-fewer-than-1000-a-year

    This is to meet CA mpg mile requirements.

  45. Unless Toyota and Chevy replace the gas (fuel to become obsolete especially since the population of the world keeps growing so the corn or sugar used to make ethanol will instead be used to feed people) engine to a diesel engine (as in making Diesel from that algae) I think that the Leaf will beat them both in the end. Especially since battery tech will only get better with time thus more charge which equals more range... But for the short run I see the Toyota winning out... but they better watch their 6 when the Leaf starts production in the states. The key to the Leaf is that the subframe will be used in many of their cars to come (infinity coming out soon, minivan, cargo vans, sports car) this is what will put them ahead of everyone else

  46. If you want to see a sweet subframe check out the Tesla, over time look for lower priced vehicles to come out.

  47. Volt's platform can easily be converted to use diesel or natural gas engine instead. Leaf will always be limited by its battery technology.

    If fuel cell is ever cheap and practical enough, it can be easily fitted into the Volt.

  48. To anyone who really wonders which car will sell the most I hafta say that you are delusional to think that the PIP has any real competition for plug-ins. The PIP is most like a "sure thing" for a lot of people since the name has been around for over ten years now. Add to this California HOV access and you have the makings of a plug-in killing. I have a Leaf and a '05 Prius and while the Leaf makes the most sense for 65% of our miles per year I like having the Prius for longer trips and a beater Focus hatchback for hauling bikes or stuff for my business. The plugin Prius is not the answer to our transportation problems but at least every sale is displacing some sort of gas guzzler somewhere--I hope.

  49. PIP is a scam. EPA rated 6mile range should be ZERO mile if you don't drive like Grandma slowie... California also gives the Volt HOV access. The problem is that now all the HOV lanes will be blocked by all the PIP drivers who will try to stay below 62mph so they can stay in the EV mode. I can't wait to smoke those Prius with my Volt...

  50. Agreed. PIP is a compliance car ... given Toyota's reputation, I am surprised they went this route. Shameful.

  51. PIP would work amazingly well for most suburban moms.

  52. I think it is more like suburban "grandma"...

  53. 2 minute video on the ev symposium that they just had in los angeles


  54. Buy made in the US, if you live in the US!

  55. Three kids... we'd need two Volts, man... I love the Volt but give me more space.

  56. GM hasn't given any indication of following up on their Voltec MPV. But I hope it is being pursued aggressively and they spring it on us soon.

  57. Roy, there have been articles here recently regarding the Cadillac plug-in using the next gen. (?) of the Voltec system. I think it's scheduled for a late 2013 release, but do a little checking and the info should be out there...

  58. Volt is limited in passenger space. But 3 kids (with their cars seats) don't fit in a Prius or any mid size sedan either. You are looking for a minivan or SUV at that point...

  59. Short term (0-3 years) I can see the Prius selling the best. It's already got the name people trust, and is cheaper than the Volt.

    Long term, it's a different game. I wouldn't be surprised at all if both GM and Toyota release all electric versions of the Volt and the Prius. Probably very soon, maybe even 2014. Why not, it would be a simple enough conversion? Meanwhile, Ford, Chrystler, and everyone else, will also begin rolling out a wide range of vehicles from mild hybrids to all electrics. In 10 years, everyone will have a vehicle that represents every category.

  60. Prius Plugin is NOT cheaper. That is a misconception. With $5,000 extra Federal Rebates and various other state rebates, the Volt is comparable. Plus, you can actually stay in EV mode much longer and that will cover the difference. If money is your concern, buy a regular Prius instead...

  61. I think that both the Volt and the Leaf are better choices than the PiP, but it is a no-brainer that the PiP will outsell the others by a large margin in the next few years. Toyota has a large and loyal base of Prius owners eager to move up to the PiP. 99% of these buyers won't even consider a Volt or LEAF for a second.

  62. but 1%, which is me, will consider a Volt or a Porsche 918

  63. The PIP because it's the furthest from an EV. The Volt is an EREV and the Leaf an EV.... So the order will be PIP, then Volt then Leaf...


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