2011 Chevrolet Volt in Waco, Texas, en route during the 1,776-mile Freedom Drive PR stunt
In order to be competitive, new plug-ins and hybrids need be financially appealing to consumers. The stakes (and our expectations) are high as the Volt and Leaf prepare to make their debuts.
The price of the average Toyota Prius lies well below the $30,000 threshold, and falls in a range that many new car shoppers can handle. Probably the Volt's biggest competitor at the moment, the Nissan Leaf, can be had for about $8000 less (based on sticker price). That means you could pay retail price on a Leaf and still spend less than you would on a Volt after discounts. This puts the Volts at an obvious disadvantage from the start. Even though rebates tax credits are available to EV customers, the $40k+ number is probably going to be a shocker to many people looking to get the most bang for their bucks.
The Volt and Leaf are different cars, with different strengths. The Leaf is purely electric, while the Volt has an extended range gasoline engine, which is worth the extra cost, in my opinion. Still, the price difference will be the bottom line for many shoppers looking for the best deal, rather than worrying about features.
The growing EV charging infrastructure is still limited, so Volt sales will be concentrated around it initially. Look for them to start showing up in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. Some of these states offer extra rebates and incentives to drivers looking to purchase an electric vehicle.