So the 2011 Chevy Volt might not sound like much of a performance or luxury car, but priced at $41,000 it's well into luxury-car territory. And if you think about it, the premium paid for the high-tech extended-range EV buys you the luxury of being an early adopter of high-tech automotive progress. But the question raised by the price announced today is: is it worth it?
Compared to the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle, the 2011 Volt costs about $8,200 more--before government rebates. The LEAF has an advantage there, too, as being a pure electric vehicle, it's eligible for state and local rebates the Volt doesn't qualify for, and both get the bounty of the $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit. With all things tallied up, that brings pricing down to $33,500 for the Volt and $25,280 for the LEAF. If you live in California or Georgia, however, the LEAF will save you another $5,000 in taxes, and Oregon will credit your return $1,500. That could drive the price as low as $20,280 for the LEAF.
But the 2011 Volt, while an electric vehicle, isn't limited to the <100-mile range of the LEAF. Sure, it only does 40 miles on pure electricity, but thanks to the on-board range-extending generator, it can go another 300 miles without a recharge. The LEAF would require several long stops for more electrons over that distance.
So, back to the question: is the Volt worth an $8,000-$13,000 premium over the pure-electric LEAF? That's a tough one, and depends largely on your driving habits, as well as whether your first EV will be a primary vehicle or a city-only commuter. If you need to take road trips and can only own one car, the Volt is the only choice between the two. If you think you'll be staying within the 40-mile all-electric range of the Volt anyway, however, the cheaper LEAF may suit you even better. Ultimately, the answer comes down to you, though having the flexibility of the Volt might provide some peace of mind.
For a deeper look at each car and more comparative analysis on the Volt-versus-LEAF debate, check out John Voelcker's article at our sister site, GreenCarReports.