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Video: Testing electric cars - Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf

Consumer Reports News: April 12, 2011 02:58 PM

Electric cars are being marketed as the vehicles of the future and with gasoline prices rising higher, their appeal is growing. But there is still some uncertainty among drivers about going from the pump to the plug. We have been testing our own Chevrolet Volt hybrid sedan, and just today our Nissan Leaf was delivered from California, where we purchased it and took delivery in person last week.

In our initial tests, the Volt is refined yet has some quirks, notably a weak electric heater. Otherwise, we’ve been enjoying its quiet operation, brisk acceleration, and taut yet supple ride. But the big question is, what can you expect in terms of fuel economy and range? Our winter-testing experience showed a modest electric-only range impacted by the cold temperatures; we’ll conduct a full round of fuel economy and energy tests now that the weather has warmed up. Thus far, it is clear that the Volt may appeal to early adopters, but the car won’t lead to money savings. Clearly, the operating costs will vary widely, dependent on use, recharging strategy, and local energy costs.

Unlike the Volt, the Nissan Leaf is a pure electric vehicle. Prior to buying one, we borrowed a Leaf to get some initial impressions and found the EV is great for short trips. But during that limited time we found the range was often not what its gauge might indicate. Besides the range question, the Leaf accelerates well and handling is responsive. Look for a full evaluation and ratings in the coming weeks.

Check out the video below for more observations. Also, see our full April auto issue report for more details on the electric range of the Volt and Leaf.


Liza Barth

   

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