Nissan LEAF vs Chevy Volt vs BMW i3

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Aside from the amazing Tesla Model S 70D, Cadillac ELR, BMW i8, and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid — four high-priced heavyweights in the electric car segment — I test drove the Chevy Volt (for the first time!), Nissan LEAF (for the second time), and BMW i3 (for the second time) last week in Florida. It was an interesting experience.

The Nissan LEAF Is A Winner

Nissan LEAF 4
My little sister, Mira, in front of three Nissan LEAFs. One of them is now a CleanTechnica LEAF.

The LEAF really impressed me. It is a really nice car, imho. I kept asking if the 2015 LEAF had significant improvements over the 2013 LEAF, because it seemed much better than my memory of the 2013. But I think I realized what the real situation was. In 2013, I drove the BMW i3 and then drove the Nissan LEAF. The BMW i3 has pretty wicked acceleration, and definitely has more of a cutting-edge, look-at-me style. I went away with a good impression of the LEAF in 2013 — it’s still much nicer to drive than a higher-priced Mercedes or BMW gasmobile — but my perception was warped by the i3 test drive and I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have.

The 2015 LEAF I drove, which we now have Cynthia in (and thoroughly reviewing), was really smooth to drive. As Cynthia and I both noticed, it felt smoother than every other electric car we both test drove other than the Model S — the BMW i3, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and Chevy Volt. That’s saying something! I also drove the BMW i8 and Cadillac ELR without Cynthia, and I’d say the LEAF was smoother than the i8 (to be expected for any non-EREV PHEV) but about as smooth as the ELR. Anyhow, it is a super smooth drive, and after renting gasmobiles, that is very noticeable and appreciated. The acceleration doesn’t compare to the higher-end cars I just mentioned, of course, but it was still peppy and enjoyable — as one would expect from any fully electric car.

The Volt Impressed, But Not Enough

Chevy Volt Sarasota cropped
Great license plate. 😀


The biggest comparison is with the Volt, but I’m afraid I went and warped this comparison, because in between these test drives were the i3, i8, one night of sleep, Model S 70D, and Panamera S E-Hybrid. After driving those four wicked-awesome cars, the Volt didn’t feel very special to me. I had the impression the LEAF acceleration was better. Technically, it shouldn’t be, so I’m afraid my perception simply got warped. I’ll need to do a back-to-back test drive at some point for a better comparison. Nonetheless, I think an overall feeling that they aren’t too different when on electric drive is probably a solid one.

On the interior, I preferred the LEAF. It felt like it had a lot more space, and it did have one more seat than the Volt. The windshield of the LEAF — one of our favorite things about the car, actually — is quite big and allows for great visibility. The Volt did not excel in this category. The 2015 Volt looks much better in person than I ever thought it looked in pictures. I’ve never liked it in pictures, but actually liked it quite a bit in person. Still, I prefer the LEAF on that front as well… but that’s a totally subjective matter.

Of course, if you want a lot of extra gasoline range, and are fine with ~40 miles of electric range, the Volt is hard to beat. And the price point is also competitive with many a gasoline vehicle lacking the joy and convenience of electric drive. With the 2015 Volt ~53 miles of range and better acceleration, I think it’s a very hard car to beat.

The BMW i3 Is Still Tops

BMW i3 white and black

For me, the BMW i3 is still the clear leader among this group. But given the price, one would expect that. As noted above, the LEAF did have a smoother drive, but the i3’s acceleration is wicked. And aside from the acceleration fun, the i3 seems to have the strongest regenerative braking in the industry. It is totally awesome to use once you get a little accustomed to it. It will bring the car to a full stop, and in many city driving instances, it does so about as quickly as I’d do so on my own in a car without regenerative braking. While the Model S is known for great regen and very enjoyable one-pedal driving, I think the BMW i3 offers one-pedal driving at its best.

The downside of the i3 is that the space in the back doesn’t seem to match the LEAF’s. Again, it’s a 4-seater, not a 5-seater, and the passengers in the back just don’t seem to have as much space (I’m assuming they technically don’t). In general, you sit a bit higher in the i3, which I like, but the distance from the floor to the spot for your butt doesn’t seem to be as far.

BMW i3 steering wheel BMW i3 front seats BMW i3 inside

As anyone can see, the i3 has a cutting-edge look — some hate it, some love it. My sister hated it, my mom loved it, and I love it or like it or feel a bit “errr…” about it depending on the day and the angle. All of us liked the way the back doors opened, which is apparently an unusual opinion, but I stand by the point that locking a 2-year-old into the back is a genuine + in my book.

The BMW i3 windshield is huge (similar to the LEAF, but maybe even better), which my mom and I greatly appreciated. However, the windows in the back are quite small, which any passenger (even my little baby girl) probably won’t appreciate.

I do think it’s important to remember that the i3 is widely considered the greenest car on the market (globally) and is the most efficient car on the US market. It is light despite the batteries thanks to BMW pioneering carbon fiber production for cars (this is the first production car in the world to use it) and that is noticeable when you step on the pedal hard after sitting at a red light or stop sign. Actually, it is even noticeable up to a fairly high speed (~40 mph) when you press down on the pedal.

While I wouldn’t deny that the Model S is the best car on the planet, the i3 is blast to drive. I even saw recently that a guy who has both an i3 and a Model S prefers the i3 for daily city driving and the Model S for longer trips. That’s quite a statement.

Arguably, the i3 shouldn’t be compared to the Volt or LEAF, but I imagine there’s a good number of people considering it and at least one of those options. I was initially considering the LEAF, i3, and Model S, but am now stuck between the i3 and Model S. I have a very hard decision to make….

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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62 thoughts on “Nissan LEAF vs Chevy Volt vs BMW i3

  • What would be the difference in the annual CO 2 output between the 3 cars?
    Just another sales point over ICE’s, but to me an very important one.
    Just an average would be ok, gas and diesel varies as well, point of production, quality of raw product, shipping distance etc.
    And yes if you have your own RE energy that out put would be 0 or close to it.

    • Electric cars do not have an annual CO2 output. The BMW i3 has an optional motorcycle engine as a “range extender” that would create emissions if the batteries are low in charge. As to power used, that depends on the owner’s driving mileage and source of electricity. I have solar panels so my Leaf gets most of the annual power used from clean technology. You seem to have a complicated question that may be impossible to answer unless you explain a bit more what you want to know.

      • Except, of course, that an electric car *does* have an annual CO2 output. It’s just not at the tailpipe.

        A recent life cycle analysis puts the emissions of an electric vehicle at about 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer in the EU (which has a cleaner grid than most places). That still compares favorably with a typical petrol vehicle at nearly 300 grams per km.

        • Since you don’t know the source of the electricity, you can’t say ” of course, that an electric car *does* have an annual CO2 output”, and then post an article about the “average grid”. It is very much possible to have ZERO emissions, most commonly from roof mounted solar, but just as easily by buying renewable electricity from the utility.

          • Wrong on several points.

            1) As the study shows, a significant portion of emissions come from manufacturing, disposal and maintenance. Your rooftop PV has little influence on those.

            2) If your panels weren’t charging your car, they’d be displacing electricity generation by putting their electricity on the grid. As such, your panels don’t make your car zero emissions, just slightly less dirty than it otherwise would be.

            An electric vehicle is the second cleanest option (after sugarcane ethanol) among options researched in this article. As such, an EV is vastly preferable over an ICE one. Better is still quite far from perfect though.

          • On #2, note that a lot of people can’t install a solar power system that is expected to produce more electricity than you consume. so, an EV can allow for a larger solar system than one could connect to the grid otherwise.

          • How much of the energy input for mining, refining, transporting, manufacturing and recycling the car and battery is done or could be done with electricity?

            It’s back to a dirty grid. Let’s put blame where it belongs.

          • It’s not about blame. When you buy a car today, it comes with today’s grid. It’s good to be mindful of that, lest we start seeing driving as something entirely benign.

            For me, the main message of this graph is cars, whatever their power source, are not (yet) a good alternative for public transport or cycling from an environmental point of view.

            Nice though electric vehicles are, getting people out of their car should continue to be the focus of transport planners for the forseeable future.

          • I tried replying to this thread, but the post was auto-flagged as spam (???), which I could not fathom. Is there some way to check my submission for what is triggering the block?

          • I’m on overload. I’ll try to get to the spam folder and look for it later.

          • It’s ok, thx. I just changed all my links so they weren’t clickable and that allowed me to post it… although it kind of nerfs accessibility LoL. P.S. your work and comments are very much appreciated. I am frightened by the work mods here and on Reddit must do (I figure it’s like herding cats). =D

          • Yes an article compared the total lifecycle CO 2 output for a number of different models, EV, Hybrid, ICE and in different places and the conclusion was that EV’s are better than the most efficient ICE in almost all places.

          • EV is better than fossil fuels in almost all places, but not always better than biofuels (and most LCA’s don’t even look at second generation biofuels yet).

            Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, for example, scores significantly better than an electric vehicle in all but the very cleanest electricity grids (see above).

            Moral of the story: don’t write off ICE just yet if you are looking at GHG alone. That being said, there are some other benefits to electric vehicles, mainly their ability to eliminate air pollution or at least shift it away from urban areas.

        • But thanks for the study. Always nice to have more scientific studies to compare.

        • I understand your point but it simply feels dishonest.

          The EV has nothing to do with how dirty a grid might be.

        • Interesting article, although I think biofuel will be primarily constrained by yield / area, available land, competition with food, and what’s ultimately financially and politically supportable land use rather than input/output energy efficiency. I suspect it (akin to corn) won’t scale sufficiently (volume wise) for population and vehicle growth –Note: I’m not accounting for potential huge drop in vehicle ownership via autonomous vehicles though, although shared vehicles could yield massively increased travel distance per-vehicle.

          EV CO2 pollution should be put in context of rapidly encrouching massive reductions available via renewables.

          The Figure 4[1] noted in your post from cited paper[2] has double strong bias toward bioethanol due to cherry picking EV & Bioethanol metrics (as shown via 5x lower EV emissions for hydro/solar/wind in Figure 6[3] of same paper). It down estimates best of breed EU EV-emission countries (via averaging out 2% outliers) yet picks best-of-breed bioethanol (5x better) countries while excluding bioethanol’s very large externalities (CO2 emissions from deforestation[4] and tilling, aka land use emissions used by CARB evaluated Brazilian ethanol[5]

          [Figure down estimates EV]

          “EU average” grid is misleading term when EU member-countries have tremendous (20-200x+[Sweden & Norway respectively]) differences[9] in grid carbon intensity much greater than US vs Canada of 2.5x[6]. Furthermore lifetime CO2 emissions/km driven is not only heavily influenced by where an EV’s driven, it’s just as heavily influenced by where and how it’s manufacturered.[See fig 3.1][7]

          [Figure cherry picks bioethanol and omits negative externalities]

          Likewise, bioethanol production has vast regional differences and unlisted externalities in paper. Sugarcane is 1/5th us Corn ethanol carbon intensity in Brazil, but worse than US corn ethanol in Pakistan & S.Africa due to regional growth limits[8]. It can take “decades” to “centuries”[10] to recover carbon deficit from tilling ground/grass/rainforest for bio fuels –fortunately on the lower 17yr end for sugarcane.

          [EV emissions scales with grid improvement]

          Grid improvements & low CO2 production of rewnewables & EVs would ostensibly change CO2 emission ratio from 3:1 Norway (BEV vs most efficient hybrid) to 7:1(old 2000 NREL 20yr life 3yr panel est.)[11] (for hypothetically fully Solar & wind powered EV manufacturing & dirty manufactureed PV charging up EV) to ostensibly ~10x-25x+ : 1 (for renewable power manufactured PV & wind charging the EV and using same “clean” PV & wind for powering manufacturing inc. raw materials.)

          [PV show tremendous growth and orders of magnitude lower carbon emissions vs existing grid tieing best case sugarcane CO2/kwh (that omit sugarcane land use emissions)]


          Solar panels lasting well past 20 yrs (28-33yrs)[12] with no precipitous dropoff[13]

          Using conservative avg. US insolation: 4.5[14] and 250kwh / m^2 panel construction cost[15] with 22% energy efficiency Solarcity panels[16] yields

          ~360kwh/yr. That’d be Running emissions for EV would be (avg. Leaf efficiency[19]) 6.4km / kwh –> 468g CO2/kwh * 1kwh/6.4km = 71 g CO2/km. Solar power at lifetime 18-48[20]gCO2/kwh (see below) would be 9x-25x cleaner than Denmark grid (assuming it was at most 48% fossil fueled worst case).

          EU car emission target 2015 is 130g CO2/km[21]; 30gCO2-equivalent(good) 21gCO2-eq(better) 18gCO2(best)[(REC)22] Lifetime CO2 emissions of Solar panel / kwh.

          NREL (old PV payback report 1997-2000) notes ~3.3 year payback for {aluminum + silicon + module} [this paper est. 7x returns @30 yrs][23]. w/ 28-33 year life from above, that’d be 9-10x returns.

          See: A very helpful map of various gas efficiencies shows the huge regional variations (this includes outsized CO2 emissions from EV manufacturing [24]. It’d be great if there’s a breakdown by state or county. For instance in Marin county north of SF California, you can opt to have your power be 100% rewnewable by opting in. EV miles from there would ostensibly “zero emissions” or more like near order of magnitude smaller than US avg. grid emissions.


          * Spaced added to web links to not trigger Disqus agressive spam filter.

          [1] (Messagie, et al) Chart comparing life cycle CO2 of various vehicle power sources. [ http:// www .mdpi .com/1996-1073/7/3/1467/htm#fig_body_display_f4-energies-07-01467 ]

          [2] Maarten Messagie, Faycal-Siddikou Boureima, Thierry Coosemans, Cathy Macharis, and Joeri Van Mierlo. A Range-Based Vehicle Life Cycle Assessment Incorporating Variability in the Environmental Assessment of Different Vehicle Technologies and Fuels. Energies 2014, 7(3), 1467-1482; doi:10.3390/en7031467. [ http:// www .mdpi .com/1996-1073/7/3/1467/htm ]

          [3] (Messagie, et al) Chart showing power source impact on EVs. [ http:// www .mdpi .com/1996-1073/7/3/1467/htm#fig_body_display_f6-energies-07-01467 ]

          [4] There’s concerning push for bioethanol that would incentivize third world countries to clearcut & replace rainforest with sugarcane. “The [Brazil] president dreams of a green belt [of sugarcane] surrounding the globe along the equator” [and challenge OPEC] (Spiegel Online)[ http:// www .spiegel .de/international/world/a-green-tsunami-in-brazil-the-high-price-of-clean-cheap-ethanol-a-602951.html)

          [5] CARB Payback period. Plant & region comparisons. [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Indirect_land_use_change_impacts_of_biofuels ]

          [6] Paul Cherfurka How Much CO2 Do Electric Cars Produce [Ed.] he also had simply way to calculate CO2/kg: [grid ev intensity](g/kwh) x [uprate for transmission loss](x1.1) x [EV efficiency Leaf](0.2kwh/km)[*]. ([Online], 2007).[ http:// www .paulchefurka .ca/Electric%20Cars%20and%20CO2.html)

          [*]actually Nissan at 0.18kwh/km (for 2013 and later editions) (Wiki) [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf#Fuel_economy ]

          [7] See Figure 3.1 for compounded impact of low carbon manufacturing combined with low carbon grid. [ http:// shrinkthatfootprint .com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Shades-of-Green-Full-Report.pdf ]

          [8] Chart showing carbon intensity of different bioethanol fuels per region. [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/File:BioethanolsCountryOfOrigin.jpg ]

          [9] kg CO2/kwh per country [ http:// ecometrica .com/assets/Electricity-specific-emission-factors-for-grid-electricity.pdf).

          [10] Note of decades to centuries carbon deficit from clearing wild lands (on low end for sugarcane). [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel ]

          [11] PV FAQs: What is the energy payback for PV?. NREL (2000[?]). [ http:// www .nrel .gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf ]

          [12] Z.Shahan. [ http:// cleantechnica .com/2011/12/27/solar-panels-creating-electricity-for-much-longer-than-20-years/)

          [13] B.Wallace (cleantechnica forum) citing Switzerland study (“Supsi” comment link broken), try: A. Realini, E. Bur‡, N. Cereghetti, D. Chianese, S. Rezzonico; Mean time before failure of photovoltaic modules (MTBF-PVm); (SUPSI, DCT, LEEE-TISO 2003)[Online][ http:// www .researchgate .net/publication/242190872_Mean_time_before_failure_of_photovoltaic_modules_(MTBF-PVm)) Shows 0.2% perf loss / yr. from 1983-2001; Plant installed 1982. Article estimates 10-15yrs additional service (implies 28-33yrs total using 2001 as ref. point or 30-35yrs with 2003 as ref point. ]

          [14] NREL US annual insolation map w/ fixed south angled panels.[ http:// www .nrel .gov/gis/solar.html) “4.5” is below average.

          [15] Panel construction kwh est.[ http:// info .cat .org .uk/questions/pv/what-energy-and-carbon-payback-time-pv-panels-uk ]

          [16] Am making assumption of same panel costs as 15% panels. [ http:// techcrunch .com/2015/10/02/solarcity-creates-a-22-module-level-efficient-solar-panel/ ]

          [17] coal provides 48% of Denmark’s electrical power [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Energy_in_Denmark)

          [18] lb CO2/kwh from coal powered elctricity [ http:// www .eia .gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=74&t=11 ]

          [19] Nissan Leaf energy efficiency in km/kwh. T.Williams: Real World Test: 2013 Nissan LEAF Range vs 2012 Nissan LEAF Range (w/Video) [ http:// insideevs .com/real-world-test-2013-nissan-leaf-range-vs-2012-nissan-leaf-range/ ]

          [20] Wiki of lifecycle gCO2eq/kwh [ https:// en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources ]

          [21] EU car CO2/km 2015 & 2020 targets:[ http:// www .eea .europa .eu/data-and-maps/figures/average-emissions-for-new-cars/average-emissions-for-new-cars ]

          [22] [PV CO2 emissions comparison] Delivering Sustainable Solar Solutions. Pub: Renewable Energy Corporation (Sandvika, Norway) [ http:// www .recgroup .com/PageFiles/12783/LCA_brochure_020911_WEB.pdf ]

          [23] PV FAQs: What is the energy payback for PV?. NREL (2000[?]). [ http:// www .nrel .gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf ]

          [24] Map pulled from Lindsey Wilson’s Debunking The “Electric Cars Aren’t Greener” Myth [ http:// cleantechnica .com/2013/06/20/electric-cars-arent-greener-myth-debunked/ ]

    • It would be interesting to try to calculate. And we are just planning to rent for the next 1-2 years when in Florida, probably in a condo, so will be using grid electricity. I’ll try to do such a piece eventually….

      • The only reason why I asked that question, because on a site about highest MPG (all hybrid ones) cars there was in the chart the cost for fuel per year and the CO 2 output (rated on fuel use I presume).
        The best one of the 15 or so was the Prius with fuel cost of $ 995 per year and CO 2 of 2.9 tons per year.
        This was the first time I seen such a chart.
        But it did get me thinking, what if producers (cars, trucks, SUVs etc.) would have to state the estimated fuel use/cost of fuel and the CO 2 output of all models (what would a Hummer be ?)
        And just to be fair, CO 2 output of air travel, rail use, ocean shipping, land shipping and perhaps energy use in residential/commercial/industry/military.
        But would all of that be addressed in Paris in November?

        • The chart I found was about highest MPG cars on MSN Canada news, but I do know how to post a link.

          • 1) Open the site in a different tab.

            2) Copy the address in your browser address bar. (The adress for this page starts….)

            3) Paste it in your comment.

        • I think it’s a great idea. And I really want to see how these two cars would compare for me. But, yeah, it’s much harder to generalize with EVs.

          • There is an article by a journalist comparing the lifecycle cost ( as in CO 2 output) of ICE and EV’s, different models, different locations. (think it was done in 2012)
            The conclusion was in places like Alberta, Canada with almost all electricity from coal, an EV is slightly worse than the most efficient ICE car, but in almost all other places EV’s win out and if you have RE to charge the EV by a huge margin.

          • In Quebec we have 99% of electricity coming from hydro power and wind power . B.C. and Manitoba have a lot of Hydro power too. Good place to have an EV .
            Definitely Alberta not a good place for an EV as you mentioned

        • Keep in mind that the CO2 emissions are measured at the tailpipe, and do not include the CO2 burden of getting the gasoline to the tank. For the energy it takes to get the gallon of gas to the tank, an EV can go about 30 miles, in effect negative CO2 compared to an ICE.

          • That lifecycle comparison took production to recycling (ICE and EV) into account, I do not remember if the fuel production (exploration, drilling, transport, refining, transport) was taking into account as well.

    • People like you are such a bore. Why don’t you project the same negativity against gasoline burning heaps of junk? My Tesla, and the two Volts that I still keep have no CO2 output. All charge on solar power that I either generate at home or that I buy from my electric utility.

      • Yes I would like nothing better than to get rid of ICE’s tomorrow.
        But in the study the whole CO 2 output was calculated from production to recycle and on that basis, unless you walk, there are CO 2 emissions ( even if your wheels would run on no ‘ fuel’ of any type.)

  • BMW is the most efficient. And now with a BMW battery replacement program in the works, it looks better and better.

  • Isn’t a the Chevy sparx (electric only, the gas version shouldn’t exist) a pocket rocket most would love?

    • I have an electric spark. It is a savage monster and I love it to pieces. The only thing limiting its acceleration is the fact that the tires break free from the pavement when you punch it. 400 ft/lb of torque – WOW. Never had a car with balls like this. It also makes for some pretty sketchty torque steer with the stock tires (only when you’re nailing it). People report a much better experience with performance tires. I hope Chevy keeps up it’s performance in the Bolt. All told, merging on to the 110 is like a dream come true. Performs great on the highway.

    • It’s limited to ~3 markets, and none are near Florida. But yeah, it has gotten good reviews.

  • Why compare the previous generation Volt when the new 2016 Volt is out? I wonder how different the comparison would be with the current model, and all of it’s improvements.

    • The 2016 Volt isn’t in Florida (and ~40 other states). Look forward to testing it, but wasn’t an option at this point.

      • For much less than the cost difference between an i3 and a Volt, you could fly to a state, buy the Volt and drive home. I’m actually thinking of that in reverse for a used Volt which are waaay cheaper in FL than in CA.

        • Interesting that Volts are way cheaper in FL! And, yeah, that options has crept in for me.

    • I don’t think that will make a difference the way he said it . The Volt is not for him the way I see it. Is not for every body . Is time for GM to bring the Cross Volt. I will keep my old Volt for a few more years.

      • Well, that’s true for my own vehicle decision. But this was just a general comparison of the three models from test driving them all over the course of 2 days.

        • But the Volt IS for me the way I see myself! After all, I AM the chosen one!

      • But the 2017 Volt IS for everyone! And I will buy the 2017 Volt and keep it FOREVER!

  • In the article you state “the i3 seems to have the strongest regenerative braking in the industry.” You obviously haven’t driven the Fiat 500e. The design engineers took a little different tack on braking, where down to 8 MPH, 100% of the braking is regenerative. That is to say the Fiat recovers more of it’s kinetic energy than any other car during day to day driving, the brakes barely get used. It drives like a regular automatic, so two pedal driving is just like a normal car. However the engineers have dialed the regen up to 65KW (which you can hit only on a hard brake from freeway speeds), and claim about 80% recovery with their system (designed by Bosch). Yes I understand it is a CA (and Oregon) only car, but I find one pedal driving to be a bit unnatural, especially if you are trying to simply coast the car.

    • Thanks for the info. Wasn’t aware of that. I would **love** to drive that car, but yeah, only CA (and Oregon), and the head of Fiat pisses me off on a regular basis.

      The i3 does come to a dead stop on its own at about the same speed as I naturally would. Love it. The VW e-Up! in the strongest regen mode may have been similar (hard to remember — was 2 years ago). But nothing else I’ve driven has been as strong. (I think I’ve driven ~60% of the EVs on the market.)

  • How tall are you, and how much did your height play in your overall impression of each car?

    • Sorry for the delay. I’m ~6′, or 6’1″. Probably played a bit of a factor.

  • Did you consider safety? In other articles, you’ve gushed about the safety of the Model S. The main issue we have with the Leaf is its poor crash test results. Nissan has done nothing to improve the crash safety of the Leaf over the years. This is a major issue for us. Other affordable EVs, like our Focus Electric, are much safer.

    • No, wasn’t really a point of consideration in this piece since I was focusing on drive quality. But I agree it’s an important point. And it did come up when talking about the Volt vs LEAF. And apparently the i3 is very safe for passengers.

    • How can you make that comparison? Few testing authorities have tested all major models, which makes any comparison an apples-and-oranges affair. NCAP tests a lot of (electric) vehicles, but its methodology is widely criticized.

      Almost any new car that makes it to market is pretty safe, that’s something most authorities in the field seem to agree on. There’s much less agreement on how you should quantify ‘pretty safe’ and about how significant differences between cars are. Remember that safety scores come without margins of error, a big red flag.

      The emergence of safety assists (automatic braking and so on) makes comparisons even harder. If car A fares far better in a crash but car B has more technology that helps it avoid accidents, which one do you pick? Crash tests won’t help you decide.

      If you worry about safety, don’t waste your time peering over crash test data. Instead, spend some more time on refresher courses in safe driving. After all, us drivers are now the weakest link in vehicular safety.

  • Thank you, did not know that.
    But I did remember that biking/cycling is the most efficient mode of transportation.

  • I love the Chevy Volt great car every one I know loves there Volt cant wait when the 2016 Volt goes on sale everywhere Dont like the Leaf your driving is limited only 84 mile range no back up system and that is not enough for me .I do like what Bmw has done with the i3. But the style is not me So my pick would be the 2016 Chevy Volt

  • I totally agree about the rear doors. They are so convenient…

    • I think you mean the i3 doors. With a 1- to 4-year old, we’ll be putting her in and getting her out anyway. The benefit on our end is she won’t be able to randomly open the door on mistake if we don’t have it locked properly. Also, I’ve heard they make loading and unloading a car seat and kid easier, and it seems they would.

      • Yes, exactly our experience with the i3 rear doors and our 2 year old was easy to get her into her car seat, and we’d have her jumped out when she had to get out of the car. It just feels intuitive for me to have total access to the interior.

        • Thanks. That was my expectation. Find it odd that people keep saying I won’t like them, when they seem ideal.

  • Why didn’t you use the 2016 Volt that was just released? It seems odd to write an article about a car that is only on some dealer lots for another couple of months. (the 2016 is released in like 10 states right now.) The 2016 actually has the 5th seat, better range, and a slightly different drivetrain. I just seems lame.

    • GM couldn’t get me a 2016 Volt in Florida. Only in California.

      Anyhow, many people are looking at 2015 and used cars, so I think it is still helpful.

  • I saw an i3 (with Rex) not so long ago, and my first comment was “They’re copying Tesla’s design choices”. But the controls were clunkier and I couldn’t get the seat adjusted right and the car was a lot smaller.

    • yes, **a lot** smaller. pros and cons with that, and i guess that’s the crux of my issue… well, plus range, autopilot, and price. 😛

  • Pffft. You didn’t include hills. Bicycling on the flat or downhill is more efficient than walking, but bicycling UPhill on a steep hill is ridiculously inefficient, to the point where many people walk their bikes uphill.

    Fuel efficiency is complicated!

    • Pffft yourself. Yes it’s harder to pedal uphill, but what goes up must come down. Average it all together, and it’s still the most efficient.

      • OK, I think you missed my point.

        See, what you do to optimize fuel efficiency is to ride downhill and then walk your bike uphill…. call it a “hybrid drivetrain”, using wheels where most efficient and feet where most efficient. You do better than walking *and* better than biking!

        Which makes my point about fuel efficiency being complicated.

  • The volt is a much better vehicle than the leaf. Much better interior, much better look, accelerates better, just feels better overall.. and then there’s the 410 miles of range after you run out of pure electric power. Stop being such an obvious shill. The volt’s interior is even better than the i3’s, which looks like a car from1980 with a couple of android tablets sitting on the dash.

  • Of course, there’s no consideration of price in this review, making it pretty useless. And no consideration of the fact that the Volt, which also has a gasoline engine, is much more practical than the very cool Leaf, if a person has only one car.

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