A sneak peak at the SF International Car Show

November 19, 2010 8:25:28 PM PST
The 53rd annual International Car Show is opening in San Francisco on Saturday. It's always got the latest and greatest from the major manufacturers. This year Nissan's new all-electric car and Chevy's electric Volt are there.

The Nissan Leaf is the world's first mass produced all-electric car.

"It's 100 percent electric, all battery, no gas, no oil, zero emissions," Russell Vare from Nissan said.

You can drive the Leaf at the 53rd annual International Car Show -- though the shifter might take some getting used to.

It can go 100 miles on its lithium ion batteries. A 240-volt outlet will produce a full charge in seven to eight hours, but special equipment has to be installed in your house.

"We have a preferred vendor, AeroVironment. They come to your house, do a home assessment and have a network of local contractors that can install this for about $2,000, that's the estimated price," Vare said.

The Chevy Volt does not require any special charging equipment, but its battery range is about half or less that of Leaf's -- 25-50 miles, depending on the three "t's."

"Terrain, technique and temperature," Tony Fotiu said.

After the battery dies, a gas generator can power an engine for another 300 miles. That, says Chevy, takes care of what's known as range anxiety for consumers who might not be ready for all-electric.

"An onboard generator will engage basically and give you capabilities to continue to drive it. So even though your battery may deplete, you are never stuck," Fotiu said.

The Volt has won a variety of awards, including Motor Trend Car of the Year. It starts at $41,000 before tax credits. The Leaf is more affordable, starting at about $33,000 and it's eligible for more tax credits than the Volt.

Nissan has orders for 20,000 Leafs and delivery begins next month. That's also when the Volt will first be available in seven markets, including California and the fight for the e-car market share is on.

Gentlemen, start your batteries.


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