As a pure electric car with no onboard gasoline engine, the Leaf also qualifies as a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) and is eligible for special tax breaks and driving privileges available to such cars at both the federal and state level, particularly in California.
Another selling point is the Leaf's estimated 100 mile range on a full charge - which is about 40 percent better than the range of the '90s-era GM EV1. And the Leaf will cost considerably less to buy than the old EV1 - about $20,000 to start, according to reports - vs. $35,000 (in 1990s dollars) for the EV1.
A potential downside, though, is that the Leaf, unlike plug-in versions of the Prius or the Chevy Volt, will require specially configured 220 volt outlets to recharge its lithium-ion battery pack. The 2011 Volt and Prius can be plugged directly into any ordinary 110 volt outlet - available anywhere there is electricity. But Leaf buyers will need to have an electrician come to their home and install special 220 volt outlets and charging stations. Depending on the home, this may involve significant expense, if the home's existing wiring needs to be updated. And unless your workplace or destination also has a 220 volt recharging station, your driving radius will be limited to no more than 50 miles from your home charging station.
Related: Mercedes-Benz has added a "mild hybrid" version of the E-class luxury sedan to its 2011 lineup. A conventional V-6 engine provides the power to move the car but when it's stopped as at a traffic light or in traffic, the engine automatically shuts off and systems such as the AC and so on are powered electrically. This improves overall fuel economy by about 10 percent, according to Mercedes.
The 2011 Infiniti M35 sport sedan will be offered with a full-hybrid powertrain. An all-electric version of the Mini Cooper will reportedly be available in late 2011. Volvo is also looking at electric version of its C30 hatchback, with a possible production version in the works for 2012. VW may offer a production version of the Compact Coupe hybrid concept car unveiled at this year's Detroit Auto Show by 2012. The Compact Coupe reportedly gets 100-plus Miles per gallon.