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Electric Car Shopping: Chevy Volt vs Nissan LEAF vs Ford C-Max Energi

There was a time when I biked almost everywhere I needed to go. However, the serious lack of safe bicycle paths has me driving to work about 8 or 9 miles or 16 round trip — and jaunts to a few other places are also part of my regular schedule. After being car free for a while, I have never actually made peace with gassing up in the reliable, aged Toyota I currently use. So, what about some online electric car shopping — say, comparing a Chevy Volt vs Nissan LEAF vs Ford C-Max Energi? Is it time to go electric?

I also do in-home visits for some of my clients; for a few, I will travel out of town — to St. Petersburg or south to Englewood. On these occasions, the travel distance ranges from 10 to 60 miles or so. I do it less than I would like to because I hate to buy gas or spew particulates into the atmosphere. If I were driving electric, I might provide this service more. This is one motivation to do some electric test drives.

Initially, I thought of the Nissan LEAF. I am sold on the idea of a fully electric drive. I romanticized that predawn climb of the LEAF in Hawaii to become part of the famed sunrise over the volcano in Haleakalā National Park. Imagine the lone darkness and ascending climb of 10,000-foot elevation to view the beauty of a sunrise over the volcano in Haleakalā National Park. The LEAF’s battery use declined by about 84% of its usable battery capacity in that publicized drive. That same battery recharged due to the LEAF’s regenerative braking system most of the way streaming down the volcano after the lifting sun was high in the morning sky.

I want to do the same in the Appalachians. However, after reading Zach’s article on driving from Florida to North Carolina, the home of the Appalachian Trail as I know it, I am thinking more about an extended-range or plug-in hybrid electric car that has gas when chargers are not easily found — especially the Volt. However, I remember seeing electric cars in the Appalachians along with solar panels in Cherokee — maybe I could be driving one of those.

Truthfully, everyone I have heard of with a Volt is happy. So I’m lining up — some LEAF test drives, a Volt test drive, and a Ford C-Max Energi test drive.

Chevy Volt vs. Nissan LEAF vs. Ford C-Max Energi

nissan leaf white

The LEAF still looks like a smooth style that I like, and it looks like I can lease one for just $199 a month. That is just a bit more than my smartphone. Perhaps, the phone should go. The LEAF S with the improved charging package (6.6 kW onboard charger and DC fast-charging capability) starts at $21,510 with its 80 kW AC synchronous electric motor and zero tailpipe emissions. No spewing particulates. Heated seats. (No need at all. Um, might like the idea of cooling seats in Florida.) The LEAF SV starts at $26,475, and it has something I appreciate — the partially recycled cloth seat trim, as well as the Nissan Navigation System and a 6.6 kW onboard charger. I like the style of the LEAF. And the efficiency — the MPGe is 126/101 city. The LEAF SL is a higher $27,620, adding in LED low-beam lights and fog lights.

Chevy Volt brownstone metallic

The Chevy Volt 2015 has a price as low as $26,670. Glancing through the pages on the Volt, I am not as drawn to the style initially as the LEAF. However, I am sure some will be — it sits with a particular prowess. For my imaginative trip to the Appalachians, the gas backup to the electric is nice, considering some of those long mountain stretches up and down. Getting lost is okay in a Volt. With a full charge and a full tank of gas, one has a range of 420 miles. Could get lost in the mountains and still be driving. This could be the car for me. It would also make cross-state trips much more convenient.

Safety is a focus the Volt takes seriously, with lane assist, rear cross traffic alerts, and forward safety awareness. My last trip out of town, I drove by one fatal accident on the way there and one on the way back. I wonder if these features would have been able to prevent those. The Volt’s designers worked to make the car intuitive to operate. It sounds smooth, easy to handle, and safe.

2013 Ford C-MAX

I like the look of the Ford C-Max Energi. It includes dual-LCD next-generation SmartGauge® with EcoGuide providing real-time information to help you drive more efficiently, customizing displays to your liking. And the lovely thing: as your driving efficiency increases, the right-side cluster display grows lush green leaves and vines.

Chevy Volt Nissan LEAF Ford C-Max Energi
Price $30,391 $25,470 $28,021
Electric Range 38 miles 84 miles 21 miles
0-60 mph 8.4 seconds 10.2 seconds 8.5 seconds
Seats 4 5 5

Local Charging

Checking out this PlugShare map, I note there are possibly 8 chargers in fairly close proximity to me. One is a 24-hour charging port near the store I shop at most of the time. I have heard that one is definitely broken — and a few others are as well. Some I noticed had people charging recently.

Final Thoughts Before The Drives

All-in on this summary is the online exploration. I like big windows in cars, and — although, not a car designer — always wonder why all cars do not have larger windows. The pictures are not the experience. So, soon, I’ll be back with the experience of my test drives, and more about what windows are the most appealing to me.

One thing that still appeals to me is ALL electric, and the LEAF. Perhaps I need to take a different approach to the Appalachians, and take the train, electric bicycle, and walk the trail. And simply go with the Nissan LEAF or wait for the Datsun Living LEAF to come to the States.

Next up: test drives….

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