Volt and Leaf: Auto Companies Changing Gears?

General Motors is finally giving some of the most important details about the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid car that goes on sale late this year.

G.M. says the Volt will cost $41,000 (buyers may be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles). The automaker also will offer leases on the Volt for $350 a month, since its sticker price puts it in the range of a small BMW or a Lexus.

G.M. has been talking about the Volt for a long time. Here’s a story I did for the New York Times in November 2008. ┬áBack then, G.M. used the Volt as the centerpiece of its efforts to win a federal bailout from Congress. Those efforts failed, and G.M. went through a government-sponsored backruptcy a year later.

G.M. isn’t the only company offering new technology. Nissan is bringing out the Leaf, an electric car that will start at around $32,000. You can read more about both cars here.

Nobody expects either G.M. or Nissan to sell very many Volts and Leafs (or should that be Leaves, grammarians?) ┬áBut that’s not the point. Both carmakers have been behind their rivals, including Toyota and Ford, in embracing alternative fuel vehicles.

Until only a few years ago, executives at G.M. questioned whether hybrids like the Toyota Prius were anything more than public relations efforts, while Nissan barely had any research efforts.

Now, however, it looks like auto companies are changing gears in their approach to the market. That’s something we’ll be watching closely as Changing Gears gets up to speed.

Would you buy a Volt or a Leaf? Do you own a hybrid? Tell us what you think.

6 Replies to “Volt and Leaf: Auto Companies Changing Gears?”

  1. Diesel is definitely being used as in hybrid vehicles, and millions of people ride in them every day. The New York City transit system relies heavily on diesel-hybrid buses. Here’s a story I wrote about them for the New York Times last year.

    Actually, you might be surprised at the mileage you’d get with a hybrid. I’ve been driving I-94 and I-80 as I visit our partners Michigan Radio and ideastream. On my last tank of gas, I averaged 51.5 mpg, almost all of it highway driving.

  2. My driving habits would not be applicable to today's hybrid technology. I drive 80% highway and roughly 50k miles a year (sales), so I would rarely reap the benefits of hybrid technology as it stands now.

    I'm curious as to why diesel technology hasn't been considered for hybrids? I would think using diesel for the 'engine mode' on a hybrid would increase the highway mileage of the hybrid and increase the overall MPG.

  3. The Volt is a joke compared to the leaf (compare price and distance you can travel). I personally wouldn't buy either one because ultimately the technology is still a bit weak – yes it uses electricity but most electricity comes form coal plants…not to mention the damage you do to the environment every time you purchase something new – such as a car.

  4. I'm committed to buying electric, hopefully this year! I have a reservation on the Leaf, the Smart Electric Drive, and the Myers Motors Duo. Whichever comes out first has my money!
    Somebody should really do a story on Myers Motors. They have been making electric commuter cars for decades now, and the Duo is really looking like it will be awesome! It's getting no press, though, compared to Nissan and Chevy. The Duo is American made (in Ohio), fully electric, highway legal, and will be available by the end of this year. Those interested in electric should definitely check it out.

  5. If you compare the greenhouse gas emissions from burning a gallon of gas and generating enough electricity to equal a gallon of gas in the same car, the electric car always comes out more efficient regardless of the energy source. There are plenty of studies posted online that do the math on this issue.

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