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by Tim Beissmann

Fully electric cars versus range-extending plug-in hybrids. The battle is currently being waged in the US, and after six months of 2011 the Nissan Leaf EV leads the Chevrolet Volt hybrid in the sales race.

Nissan sold 3875 of its Leaf vehicles in the US between January and June 2011, more than 1000 units clear of the Chevrolet Volt on 2745.

The half-year leader board could have looked very different, however. According to Bloomberg, the Leaf stormed in with 1708 deliveries in June, compared with 561 Volt deliveries. At the end of May, the Volt led the Leaf by 17 vehicles (2184 vs 2167).

Nissan vice president of US sales, Al Castignetti, said the June result was representative of Nissan’s future expectations, with production of the world’s first publically available mass-produced EV starting to pick up pace.

“We’ve been telling you we’d grow every month, and now you’re seeing more normalised production flow,” Mr Castignetti said. “We’re starting to catch up with the reservations.”

The $US33,000 ($30,900) Nissan Leaf is considerably less expensive than the $US41,000 ($38,400) Chevrolet Volt in the US. With government tax incentives included, the Leaf is priced from $US25,500 ($23,900) while the Volt costs $US33,500 ($31,300).

Chevrolet plans to make 16,000 Volts this year, and will boost production to 60,000 in 2012. Nissan plans to sell 12,000 Leaf vehicles in the US in 2012, and has a target of 200,000 US sales in the future.

Both the Nissan Leaf and the rebadged Holden Volt will go on sale in Australia next year, with prices and specifications to be revealed closer to their local launches.

The fully electric Leaf does not burn petrol like a conventional car. You plug it into a power point to recharge it, and it has a maximum range of 175km (according to the New European Driving Cycle).

The range-extended Volt plug-in hybrid combines a petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery. In most conditions, the petrol engine does not drive the car directly, but works as a generator to recharge the battery. It has an all-electric range of 56km and a total range of 610km. Its overall combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 3.9 litres/100km.

Which car do you think is best suited to Australia? Which one do you think will sell the best? And would you consider buying either one? Let us your thoughts in the comments section below.




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