Thursday, October 4, 2012

LEAF Verses Volt

As a LEAF owner over the  past 20+ months, I feel it fair that i should warn you that this will be a very biased opinion here. So if you are a die hard Volt fan who simply will not be swayed, then you might not want to continue.


There is a lot of debate raging over what is the best way to go to drive EV.  One thing is certain; Driving Electric is pretty awesome!  But how best to achieve that?

the LEAF is 100% battery and its one way but its limited in range to over 85 miles in Summer and just 70 miles in Winter (mild Pacific Northwest Winter i should clarify) and most areas have little or no public charging available so its a lot of compromise right now.

The Volt however has much less EV range of around 40-45 miles but has a gas engine to fall back on just in case you need it.  Both right now are enjoying fabulous lease options easily reachable by the middle class

So which one?

My LEAF has performed very well over the 20+ month and nearly 23,000 miles it has taken me.  Public charging of the fast variety (DCFC gives me a 30-35 mile boost in range in just 11 minutes)  is still a bit slim but growing and L2 (240 VAC and 16 amps) is plentiful and workable if you will be somewhere for a few hours to charge up since it only gets you about 12-15 miles per HOUR of charge time.

The Volt; no quick charge available and although the EV range seems limited, its actually still more than what an average American drives daily and reports from Volt Owners bear that out. many only use gas on infrequent occasions and are reporting overall gas mileage at 150 MPG and even some at 300+ MPG

so what to choose?  well, the lease options which on the surface appear to be nearly equal are not.  my lease has a residual of $15,694 so at the end of my 36 month lease in Jan 2014, i can buy the car at that price which is beginning to look like a very attractive option.   Now, batteries dont last forever and the LEAF using 90% of the battery capacity means it will show a reduction in range much quicker than the Volt and since there is no gas backup, a significant reduction in range can really affect the usability of the LEAF (although i would have to lose almost half my range to be down to the Volt's range) so a public charging infrastructure that is convenient is a must to address the issues meaning quick charge for any travel from city to city and options like L2 for work commutes and so on.

Now there are several Volt Lessees who have monthly payment similar to mine but has a residual value of $26,000 which makes it highly unlikely that a purchase is in the cards especially if there is any kind of decent lease deals or major product improvements on the horizon but more importantly is long term maintenance.  If I to get a Volt it would be for at least 6-10 years due to the cost of the purchase.

Now, battery replacement costs for the LEAF are now rumored to be significantly under $10,000 to the point that a replacement down the line is a very attractive option for me. add to that a very nice purchase price and for significantly less maintenance of major components farther down the line and the LEAF really does return a great TCO.

The other thing the Volt has against it is the engine.  the average run time between failures on engines can be as low as 800 hours but electric motors are rated in the hundreds of thousands of hours. IOW, the motor is something that will outlast everything.  A gas engine however is going to be different.  Now how well a motor that is used very infrequently like the Volt's will hold up over several years is anyone's guess right now.


  1. one has to take a good hard look on the amount of driving and the type of driving - winter/Summer and also as your "family vacation car" or just "everyday to work" driving

    I would consider the volt if I drove long distances and the Leaf for everyday driving. We have a a new minivan so the leaf will be our everyday practical car.

  2. Anon; Agree with you 100%. It has only been after driving the LEAF for a while and having a few quick charge stations added here and there that I have realized how much the LEAF can cover our needs. It now takes the longest commute of the day more than 95% of the time. This month is a great example. I drive a lot for work but have not used the gasser at all this month. So the gasser has about 220 miles on it this month, the LEAF just rolled 1000 miles this morning.

    Only drawback (if you could call it that) the gasser does short in town commutes of 9 miles round trip and that has killed its gas mileage. Right now, averaging 33 MPG down from 36-38 MPG