A lot of Leafs blowing around my LA neighborhood

The Nissan Leaf works for urban Angelenos

The perfect plug-in for city folk?

Where a plug-in electric car makes a lot of sense

So, a new Chevy Volt ad finds the Volt telling its gas-guzzling parents that it’s electric. Even when the Volt is at the gas station converting gasoline into electricity, I wonder? Maybe.

Nevertheless, it’s this EV focus that makes it so interesting how many Nissan Leafs are blowing around my neighborhood compared to Chevy Volts.

Technically, GM can claim the Volt is an electric car. For 40 miles the Volt uses nothing but grid-powered electricity, before using an onboard generator to turn gasoline into electricity. Consequently, does it really matter whether that gasoline powers the wheels directly via an engine, or whether the engine converts that gasoline into electricity?

Is gasoline-derived electricity really that much worse than coal-derived electricity?

Of course it is, at least in most circumstances. The fact is, if you’re charging your EV at night, during off-peak hours, in most areas of the US, that energy is much cleaner than converting gasoline into electricity. Likewise, a plain old hybrid like the Prius can use that gasoline more efficiently.

Still, just because the Volt isn’t an efficient EV when powered by gasoline doesn’t mean it’s not an EV. It’s just not a great EV when powered by gasoline.

Which is why I’m guessing that more in my neighborhood are gravitating towards to the Leaf versus the Volt.

My Highland Park neighborhood is about 6 or 7 miles away from the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Even if you have to venture all the way deep into West LA, it’s still only a 20 mile drive. Sure it takes 2 hours to traverse that 20 miles, but with regenerative braking, etc., I’m sure the Leaf’s range is sufficient, even with the AC on high the whole way there and back.

Ultimately, for urban Angelos, the Leaf’s electric range is quite sufficient for most LA commutes.

If you live deep in one of the Valley’s; however, the Leaf’s range could be a problem. For those, that gasoline-powered electricity is a nice backup.

Not that I don’t also see a number of Volts in my neighborhood, but the Leaf is definitely outnumbering the Volt, and that surprises me. But really, it shouldn’t. For most commuters in my neighborhood the Leaf makes greater financial sense than the Volt.

Of course, in a neighborhood — a section of America — where the Prius is easily one of the most common vehicles, it shouldn’t really be surprising that early plug-in adopters are smart enough to realize that the Leaf, and pure electrics, make a lot of urban sense.

For those out in the sticks — I mean the suburbs — the Volt probably makes a lot more sense. Of course, I’ve never understood how it makes sense to live 30,40, 50 miles+ from the city, yet still work in the city. And in such situations, overall, I bet that hybrids like the Prius make more sense. Add a natural gas option, such as the Toyota FT-Bh hybrid suggests, and I don’t think it’s even close.

Regardless, early studies forecast that plug-in hybrids will rule America, but I wonder. The fact that so many Nissan Leafs are blowing around my neighborhood makes me wonder whether plug-in hybrids, or range extended EVs, will come up on the short end of the sales stick long term.

If a pure plug-in doesn’t make sense, then a non-plug-in hybrid probably makes the most sense.

Then again, we live in an automotive culture where making sense just doesn’t make much sense.

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