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The LEAF: How Did Nissan Do It? | Electric Vehicles

All of the news on the Nissan LEAF has been promising.  The LEAF is an all-electric 5-seater with 4 doors and a 100 mile range.  After federal tax savings, the hatchback will cost just over $25,000 in the United States.  Compared to other electric vehicles in testing or on the market, this price seems too good to be true.  How did Nissan do it?

The LEAF vs. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV

Along with the LEAF, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV will be one of the first widely available electric vehicles.  According to multiple sources, Nissan’s recent press release on the LEAF’s $25,000 price tag has sparked a price war with Mitsubishi.  Mitsubishi responded with an announcement that it is aiming for a 2011 i-MiEV price tag of $22,500 after federal tax savings.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV – Hot or not?

This price advantage over the LEAF is enticing, but the i-MiEV comes with more caveats, even though both electric vehicles offer a 100 mile range.  First of all, the i-MiEV is only available with a right-hand side steering wheel, even in the United States.  Secondly, the i-MiEV is rather ugly, in my opinion.  It looks like a Smart car and seems like a minor improvement on an electric golf cart.  Surprisingly, the Nissan LEAF is only slightly larger than the i-MiEV, but it much more closely resembles a highway-ready vehicle for some reason.  Maybe it’s the small wheels on the i-MiEV that make it look less highway-ready.

The LEAF looks great and is available with a left-hand side steering wheel.  Even though it will cost $2,500 more than the i-MiEV, the LEAF is a more attractive electric vehicle option to me.

The LEAF vs. the Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt is also on schedule to be released at the end of the year, but the official price is yet to be determined.  Will General Motors get pulled into the price war?  They were initially aiming at a $32,500 price tag after federal tax savings, but now I think they will have to bring the price under $30,000.  With the recent announcements by Nissan and Mitsubishi, I’m sure we’ll hear news on Volt pricing soon.

The main advantage that the Volt has over the LEAF and i-MiEV is that it has a backup gasoline engine.  Therefore, this plug-in hybrid does not have range limitation (as long as there’s a gas station nearby).  Initial testing has confirmed that the Volt will have a 40-mile all-electric driving range and then get 50 MPG afterwards.

The Chevy Volt Back Seat – Is it a Deal Breaker?

Even at $30,000, the Volt sounds equally promising as the LEAF, that is until I discovered that it only has two seats in the back (see image above).  With the gasoline engine in the front, engineers were left with no room for the battery pack.  Therefore, what looks like a nice center console in the back seat is actually the battery pack that runs through the middle of the car.  To many families in the United States, the split back seat will be a deal breaker.

The LEAF is $25,000 and doesn’t seem to come with any of the caveats of the i-MiEV and Volt.  How did Nissan do it?