Nissan takes a crack at Volt hybrid electric car


 

 

Nissan has taken a potshot at General Motors by mocking its plug-in electric hybrid Chevy Volt in an ad for its pure plug-in electric car, the Nissan Leaf.

The ad mocks cars that use internal combustion engines and gasoline by showing a world where any electronic gadget is powered by gasoline and an internal combustion engine. The results are comically outlandish — the commercial even features an iPod-esque music device powered by an internal combustion engine and a laptop that needs a gasoline fill-up.

 

 

Nissan lumps the Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric hybrid that drives the first 30 or so miles off battery power before shifting to an internal combustion engine to extend the car’s range, into that group of gadgets and devices that are polluting the planet with gasoline use.

 

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The advertisement is the first major sign of a growing competition between Nissan and General Motors to attract car buyers that are interested in more fuel-efficient cars. Nissan is focusing on creating a pure electric car while General Motors wants to create a car that is more fuel-efficient but has the same range as a typical car.

 

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Most of the concerns for electric car buyers center around how long it takes to charge the car and how far it is able to drive, according to a report by Accenture. Electric cars are typically limited in how far they will go on a charge, and they can take a long time to recharge. It can take up to 5 hours for some vehicles to charge completely from an empty battery.

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. It’s one of the cheaper electric cars on the market. The Nissan Leaf — another one of the cheapest electric cars — is a pure electric car that can travel around 100 miles before it needs to recharge.

Nissan’s plug-in electric car, the Leaf, outsold General Motors’ Volt electric car for the first time in April — the result of Nissan aggressively expanding its production of the Leaf to meet an almost insatiable demand for the electric car. Before April, GM’s Volt had consistently outperformed the Nissan Leaf each month. Electric car buyers bought 326 Volts the month after the car went on sale, compared to 19 Nissan Leafs sold that same month. GM sold 608 Volts in March.

 

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The 2011 Nissan Leaf sells for $32,780 while the 2011 Chevy Volt costs around $41,000. Electric car buyers can apply for a federal tax credit that can bring the price down by $7,500. 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 Nissan Leaf can travel around 100 miles before needing to recharge and has an equivalent fuel efficiency of 99 miles per gallon. The Chevy Volt has an equivalent fuel efficiency rating of 93 miles per gallon.

As gas prices rise, electric cars look better and better. But any chances manufacturers had the last time gas hit $4 a gallon were extinguished thanks to the 2008 recession, which made electric vehicles’ high upfront costs unpalatable.

Now it looks like they’ll have a second chance to capitalize on high gas prices as prices have once again risen to the occasion.

 

Nissan Leaf at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show (LHD).

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The price for crude oil futures has crossed the $100 mark — hitting as high as $104 per barrel. Some gas stations in the Bay Area and across the country are already selling gasoline for $4 per gallon or more. Despite a number of car companies working on increasingly fuel-efficient “classic” vehicles that run on gasoline that can run 40 to 50 miles per gallon of gasoline, it’s time for electric-car manufacturers to get their marketing engines revved up.

Existing car manufacturers are going on the offensive to capture a growing part of the population interested in electric cars. General Motors recently returned to the public markets post-bankruptcy, raising $20 billion in part on the promise of a sleeker, greener lineup led by the electric-powered Chevy Volt. Nissan, Ford and GM are all plowing forth with all-electric and hybrid offerings. Nissan, in particular, wants to grab 20 percent of the global electric-car market with its newest model, the Leaf.

 

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The market looks good for upstart manufacturers, too. Tesla Motors, despite piling up losses to get a new line of electric sedans rolling, has hit the ground running with its first model, the Roadster — which, I can say from personal experience, is a pretty nice ride. Coda is about to debut an five-seat sedan with an electric motor, of which it hopes to sell 14,000 in the first year of production. The company is in the midst of raising its fourth round of funding, with the first $75 million secured before Christmas.

The price tag for an electric car is still going to bother most potential buyers. The Nissan Leaf, for example, costs around $33,000. Coda’s electric vehicle costs $45,000 before tax credits given out to electric car buyers. General Motors is asking car buyers to shell out $41,000 for its Chevy Volt. But electric-car owners should be able to make up those costs in the long run — at least, according to George Parrot with GreenCarReports.com. He expects his fuel and maintenance costs to go from around $2,600 a year to $300 a year after switching from hybrid electric cars to full electric cars.

Silicon Valley might or might not be in a tech bubble, depending on who you are asking — and we all know how well the last tech bubble turned out. But there’s nothing frothy about the inexorable rise of gas prices. Barring another cataclysmic recession, this may be the moment for electric-car manufacturers to pump up the market.

 

Nissan takes a crack at Volt hybrid electric car | VentureBeat.

 

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