The Mass Electric Vehicle Era Is Underway
It's been the week of the electric vehicle (or the green vehicle, depending upon how you want to classify the Chevy Volt). Last weekend, the very first Nissan Leaf sale in history was completed when a San Francisco Bay area resident drove his brand new Nissan Leaf off of the lot of North Bay Nissan in Petaluma, California.
Olivier Chalouhi was one of 20,000 consumers that reserved a Leaf when Nissan opened up its reservation system earlier this year. He was attracted to the Leaf as the most family-friendly all-electric, highway-capable vehicle on the market.
Nissan will be building and shipping its initial Leafs through next summer, according to Autoweek. The next shipment is due on December 23.
The Nissan Leaf is the first mass-manufactured electric vehicle. According to Nissan, the 110-hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack are capable of teaming for up to 100 miles of range. However, after testing, the EPA recently certified the Leaf for a more modest 73-mile range. The EPA also gave the Leaf a 99 mpg-e rating.
Earlier this week, GM, Nissan's main contemporary competitor in the green vehicle market, also took a big step toward getting its Chevy Volt range-extending electric vehicle on the market. GM shipped the first Volts from its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to dealerships in California, Texas, Washington D.C. and New York. GM plans to get a total of 350 Volts out to dealerships this week, marking the inauguration of Volt availability.
Unlike the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt has both a gasoline engine and electric motor. The 150-hp electric motor serves to power the wheels, while the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine works solely as a generator to deliver power to the motor and extend the vehicle's range markedly. While the Volt's use of an engine gives it a drastically lower mpg-e rating than the Leaf (60 mpg-e), the car offers a much more robust range--up to 379 miles.
This factor should work in Chevy's favor as the first full-electric vehicles will be hampered by consumers' "range anxiety", fear of getting stranded by a drained battery. Range anxiety should ease as battery technology improves and offers greater ranges and as a charging infrastructure is put into place around the country, allowing EV drivers to charge on the road.
The electric and hybrid market is set to exand significantly over the next few years, and we'll undoubtedly see a few new green vehicles and concepts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.