Which One's The Green Car of the Year?

October 26, 2010

Among the five finalists for Green Car Journal’s 2011 Green Car of the Year are one all-electric, one extended-range electric, two hybrids, and one gasoline-powered car. While the winner will be announced at a press conference November 18 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, we thought it would be fun to compare the five contenders in advance. They’re all 2011 models, and each offers consumers unique blends of fuel-efficiency and environmental consciousness, style, performance, comfort, and pizzazz.


Nissan Leaf

The first 100 percent electric, zero-emissions vehicle from the Renault-Nissan alliance, the 2011 Nissan Leaf EV (electric vehicle), is a mid-size hatchback that seats five (but four comfortably, say reviewers). All 20,000 Leaf EVs allocated for the U.S. in 2011 have already been reserved by eager consumers. The initial production for the all-electric car will be in Japan, with production added at Smyrna, Tennessee in late 2012.

The Leaf is powered by an 80-kW AC synchronous electric motor, a laminated compact 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, and a 3.3 kW onboard charger, as well as “coasting” regenerative brakes. The Leaf’s range is estimated at 100 miles per charge. Top speed is 90 mph.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Leaf’s headlights consume 50 percent of the electricity of conventional lamps. And an on-board remote controller can be pre-programmed to recharge the battery. The Leaf can be charged up to 80 percent of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. At home, using a 240-volt outlet, full charging is expected to take approximately eight hours.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the 2011 Nissan Leaf is $32,780. With up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, the net MSRP is $25,280.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Not a pure electric, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is an extended-range electric vehicle. That means it can run up to 50 miles on all-electric power, and extend its range 300 more miles using a 1.4-liter on-board internal combustion engine/generator to provide electricity. Top speed is 100 mph, and the Volt features three driving modes: normal. sport, and mountain.

Chevy says consumers can commute gas-free and tailpipe emissions-free on electric for about $1.50 per day. The Volt can be pre-set to charge during off-peak hours for additional savings. To charge, plug into a 120-volt household outlet for about 10 hours for a full charge, or, using a dedicated 240-volt line, charge in as little as four hours.

Other energy-efficient features include the Volt’s aerodynamics, closed grille and aerodynamic back edges, and energy-efficient Bose Sound System (30 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, using 50 percent less energy than comparable premium models but still offers 100 percent Bose sound). The Volt has eight standard airbags, ABS, stability/traction control, five years of OnStar Directions and Connections and Automated Crash Response included, standard navigation with voice recognition system, 30 GB audio hard drive, and numerous other features.

For many consumers, the Volt could be the only car they need. For others, it’s a perfect addition to the family fleet, ideal for daily commute or in-town errands. The Volt's MSRP is $40,280, but after federal tax credit of up to $7,500, the net MSRP is $32,780. The Volt can also be leased for $360/month for 36 months. Chevy offers a 100,000-mile/eight-year warranty on the 16-kW lithium-ion battery pack.

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