As Nissan and Chevrolet prepare to launch their groundbreaking electric vehicles later this year, they face a huge task educating the public about just what they are – and aren’t.
Marketing a new car is always a challenge, and something that can cost a maker as much as $100 million for even a relatively conventional product. Now add a battery drivetrain and the challenge – if not the cost – could go up exponentially.
The Nissan Leaf is a pure electric vehicle with a range of about 100 miles and. Nissan calls it the first mass-market electric vehicle – though some might quibble with that and point to the battery cars the industry tried to push in the early 1990s.
The technology under the hood of the Chevy Volt is even more unusual. General Motors calls it an extended-range electric vehicle (rather than a plug-in hybrid, a difference a bit more than just semantics). The Volt can travel about 40 miles on a full charge. At that point, a small gasoline engine starts to provide up to 300 additional miles. When it runs out, pull into a fuel station to fill up for another 300 miles, just like a traditional car. It’s still an electric vehicle because the gasoline engine drives a generator, so it never directly powers the vehicle.