Nissan’s all-electric Leaf is now the clear leader in low-end electric car sales.
Nissan sold 1,708 Leaf cars in June. That puts it well ahead of General Motors, which sold 561 of its hybrid electric Volt cars in the same month. Nissan has now sold 3,875 Leafs compared to General Motors’ 2,745 Volts sold in the first half of the year.
It’s the first indication that Nissan has taken an early lead in the fiercely competitive, but still very small, race for electric car sales. While Volt sales have risen incrementally, Nissan Leaf have gone up by around 50 percent each month for the past few months.
Nissan’s Leaf sales were more than double that of the Volt in May, with the company selling 1,142 cars in the month. General Motors sold 481 Volts in May, which is about the same as 493 Volts it shipped in April. But sales likely didn’t grow as quickly as the Leaf because General Motors said it was pulling back on its Volt supply to issue more demonstration cars to dealerships.
While the cars operate in very different ways, they’re both designed to attract mainstream car buyers looking for a more environmentally friendly option or a way to save money on gas. The Volt has an equivalent fuel efficiency rating of 93 miles per gallon while it is running on pure electric power, and the Leaf has an equivalent fuel efficiency rating of 99 miles per gallon.
The Volt has a traditional internal combustion engine and an engine powered by a battery jammed into the same vehicle. The car can run around 35 miles off battery power before the internal combustion engine kicks in, giving the car a total range north of 300 miles on a full charge and full tank of gas. The Leaf is a pure plug-in electric car that can travel around 100 miles on battery power before it needs to recharge.
Nissan recently went on the offensive by taking a shot at the Volt in a television advertisement. Sales of both electric cars were neck-and-neck for several months and only differ by around 17 cars shipped at the end of May. The Leaf is cheaper than the Volt, but it also can’t travel anywhere near as far as the Volt and takes a while to recharge.
General motors recently slashed the price of the Volt to around $40,000 to make it more competitive with the Nissan Leaf. The 2011 Nissan Leaf sells for $32,780, while the 2011 Chevy Volt cost around $41,000 prior to the price cut. Electric car buyers can apply for a federal tax credit that can bring the price down by $7,500.
Most electric car buyers are more concerned about how long it takes to charge the car and how far it is able to drive than the actual price of the electric car, according to a report by Accenture. Pure plug-in electric cars are typically limited in how far they will go on a charge, and they can take a long time to recharge.