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Leaf vs. Volt, by the (Sales) Numbers

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In the world of eco-friendly, advanced-tech vehicles, no debate today rages stronger than that of the all-electric vehicle vs. the plug-in hybrid. One design is pure, elegant, but with an Achilles heel. The other, a perfect blend of two near-but-not-quite-perfect systems. So it was little surprise that, when the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid both came to market at about the same time late last year, all eyes would be on the monthly sales tallies of these two products.

Does this Mayweather-Pacquiao matchup of advanced vehicles mean anything? Maybe not. Both technologies are clearly still in their infancy, especially compared with the century-old internal combustion engine design. And one model of each technology is hardly a sufficient sample size to extrapolate long-term trends or market viability. Yet perhaps it is precisely because of that – each model standing alone, representing a promising future design – that we find this comparison so exciting to watch. And while arguments can be made on both sides about the merits of one technology versus another, the one stat that matters most (to boardroom execs and polar icecaps alike) is sales.

As reported in autobloggreen among others, September sales figures are in, and the Nissan Leaf once again edges the Chevy Volt. While it wasn’t a knockout, the September crown does mark six consecutive months that the pure-electric won the round.

Chevy volt and Nissan Leaf sales chart

The sales difference between the Leaf and Volt was only a few hundred units in September, though the Leaf’s cumulative sales to date are nearly twice that of the Volt. You tell me, is a TKO looming, or will the Volt bounce back? And since these two won’t be standing alone for too much longer, how will the upcoming batch of contenders – including the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi iMiEV, and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid – fare in the ring? Clearly, the competition is about to heat up. Place your bets and grab a ringside seat…

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About the author: Jim Kliesch is an engineer with expertise in fuel efficiency, battery, and hybrid electric vehicle technologies and the policies needed to turn them into real solutions for U.S. oil dependence, air pollution and global warming. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in environmental and energy policy.

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