Why we compare the sales figures of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt each month
The comment made this month in my sales comparison between the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt comes from reader Bluephrog, who made the following comment:
Why do you continually compare the Volt to the Leaf. The Volt is a hybrid and the Leaf is all electric. The Volt sales should be compared to the Toyota Prius sales or any other Hybrid. The Leaf should be compared to the Tesla or Fisker. Or, I know, go out on a limb and compare the Volt to the new Tesla S.
The reason that I compare the Nissan Leaf to the Chevrolet Volt is because they are the only two mainstream electric-drive vehicles available in the US.
Bluephrog is right that the electric vehicles from Tesla could be a closer comparison for the Nissan Leaf due to their all-electric drivetrain and the Fisker Karma is technically a better comparison to the Chevrolet Volt due to the range-extending gasoline engine. However, when you consider the extremely low production volume, the high price and the high performance aim of both the Tesla Model S and the Fisker Karma - those people looking to buy a Tesla or Fisker are a very different crowd from the folks buying a Leaf or Volt. I’m sure that marketing people from Tesla, Fisker, Nissan and General Motors would all agree strongly on that point. I could just as easily throw in the Coda Electric Sedan, the Mitsubishi I-MiEV and the Ford Focus Electric – and I plan to when those models are selling in significant enough quantities to pose a real challenge to either the Leaf or the Volt.
When it comes down to it, I do a sales comparison between the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt because they are the two highest volume vehicles in the US that offer significant pure electric range. The Volt is not a gasoline hybrid with a traditional engine/transmission drivetrain being aided by an electric assist system connected to the transmission - it is an electric drive vehicle with a range extending battery engine. It is basically like a motor home having an on-board generator to charge the batteries that run the accessories – except the Volt’s 1.4L engine charges the battery that drives the wheels.
The Chevy Volt gasoline engine cannot provide motive power to the wheels like the Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion Hybrid. You could literally remove the gasoline engine from the Volt and it would operate in the same manner as the Nissan Leaf or you could run the Volt completely dry of gasoline and it would still run on electric power (provided that the battery is charged). Neither of these facts are true of a hybrid like the Prius, Sonata or Fusion and while the technology of the gas-electric hybrid is bringing about some all-electric driving - none of the top hybrids on the market today offer anywhere near the all-electric range of the Volt. A Volt owner can very realistically drive 35 miles a day – every day – and never burn a drop of gasoline. That is not true of any hybrid on the market but it is true of the Nissan Leaf.
The only mainstream vehicles available in the US right now that are selling at a significant pace that offer a real all electric driving range are the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. The fact that GM chose to add a range extending engine does not make it any less of an electric drive vehicle and with the growth of the EV segment, we can expect my monthly Volt-Leaf comparo to also include models like the Ford Focus Electric and maybe even the Fisker Atlantic. However, for the immediate future the Leaf and Volt are the only two mainstream, high volume vehicles on the market that offer real all –electric range and that is why I compare their sales each month.
Finally, one more reason why I compare the Nissan Leaf to the Chevy Volt is that when the Nissan Leaf was moving along at full steam in 2011 and it was comfortably beating the Volt every month – Nissan Motors frequently was quick to point out that their electric Leaf was badly outselling the electric Chevy Volt. Nissan also boasted of beating the Chevy Volt in annual EV sales through the 2011 calendar year. If the automaker is going to generate that comparison, I believe that is more than enough reason for the media to look at the two in a head to head venue as well. Funny that we don’t see many of those comparisons made by Nissan these days.
That being said, the staff at TorqueNews appreciates when any of our readers take the time to comment whether they agree with we are saying or not. I encourage all of you to let us know in the comment area here what faults you find with my reasons for comparing these two electric drive vehicles.