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A quick, non-technical take on a pair of electric cars

October 24, 2011

In my personal, daily life, prior to this past weekend I had encountered just one Nissan Leaf and two Chevy Volts being operated in daily, private use.    Those numbers have essentially doubled as, since Friday, I have seen three of each vehicle.  Putting all the technical aspects aside, I have a distinct “curb appeal” reaction to each vehicle.

Let me start with the Volt:  Bluntly, I hate this car.  It is bland and boring, the “VOLT” badge is too prominent and pasted on too many surfaces.  It looks like Just Another Chevy, and it “feels” like something that will age poorly.  It certainly does not look like a $40K car, which is probably why sales have been so lackluster.  Any excitement potential buyers feel over being part of the EV vanguard must rapidly evaporate when they come face to face with the unimaginative sheet metal of the Volt.

I get just the opposite feeling from the Leaf.   This does not look like Just Another Nissan.  The styling is hip, youthful and modern.  Although it fits well into the current design trend of vehicles like the Scion Xb, Kia Soul, or even Nissan’s own Cube, the Leaf has its own personality.   It still does not look like a $35K car (rather, it looks like one of those $18K car in it’s stylistic family), but the look itself is so fashion forward that it will likely enhance the potential buyer’s feeling of being in the vanguard, rather than deflate that feeling.

Personally, I am not a big fan of EVs.  I think the technology is immature and, consequently, the prices are too inflated.  They will be both better and cheaper in 5 or 10 years.  But, if I was in the market for a dedicated car for short commutes and daily urban tasks, I would take the Leaf over the Volt, just on looks alone.  I don’t believe either one of them will have good re-sale value after 5 years, but of the two, I think the Leaf looks more likely to retain more value.

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