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GM leads Nissan in December electric car sales as supply trickles in

Chevy’s electric hybrid vehicle, the Volt, beat out the cheaper Nissan Leaf in electric car sales in the last month of 2010 as each manufacturer struggled to keep up with demand for their newest rides, the Associated Press reported today.

The Volt went into production in mid-November and hit dealerships a few weeks later, just in time to compete with the Nissan Leaf. So far it looks like the Volt has won out in terms of sheer numbers — GM sold between 250 and 350 Volts in December. Only around 10 Nissan Leaf cars were actually sold in the past two weeks.

There are around 50,000 people on the wait list for the Leaf, but Nissan initially limited rolling out its new electric vehicle line to around 200 cars in December across five states. The Leaf is around $8,000 cheaper than the Chevy Volt. Leaf Supply will continue to be limited well into early 2011, and Nissan has advised dealers to be careful about what kind of orders they sign for the Leaf.

Each Nissan Leaf ordered in August was supposed to be built-in Japan in September, and orders that come in September had a slight chance of being filled in December. Most Leaf orders are expected to dealer lots in January. California may get theirs first, since the cars are first shipped to Los Angeles before being sent to the rest of the Northwest.

It’s already looking like the electric car market is going to explode over the next several years as GM and Nissan, as well as others, ramp up production of their models of electric cars. Coda, a new startup that makes an electric sedan, expects to sell around 14,000 cars in its first year after release. Tesla Motors, despite some woes with its shares, has a pretty aggressive timeline for its Model S electric sedan and expects a prototype by the end of this year and deliveries to start in 2012. The company plans to build up to 20,000 Model S cars a year and currently has about 3,000 reservations for the car.

Granted, the success of each car is going to depend on whether their owners change their lifestyles to account for a few hours of charging the batteries each day (even VentureBeat’s GreenBeat writer Iris Kuo isn’t exactly sure the world is ready for that yet). Now it’s just a waiting game to see which company comes out on top once each manufacturer finally catches up to demand for the electric cars.