Picture yourself as an environmentally-conscious citizen, one who wants to Do Your Part by purchasing an electric vehicle to reduce your annual fuel consumption. You go to the dealer. They offer you two options: a Nissan Leaf for about $30,000 and a range of up to 107 miles on a full charge, or a Chevy Bolt for a similar sticker price and a range of 238 miles. Faced with these options, more people—for now—are picking the Leaf. What gives?
According to the trusty scorecard of InsideEVs, Chevy moved 978 EV Bolts in March, while nearly 1,500 Leafs were sold. For what’s supposed to be the first Real Marketable EV, that’s some flimsy numbers for the Bolt.
EVs only account for a fraction of all auto sales, so it wasn’t exactly expected for a crush of sales to follow the Bolt’s rollout and the mass market to instantly catch on to the electrified wave. Mark Duvall, director of energy utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute, told the San Jose Mercury News, “It takes a long time to change someone’s inherent perceptions about new technology. Especially with one of the two biggest purchases people make.”
The Bolt’s also not available at dealerships in every state just yet. And though the Leaf doesn’t stack up on paper against the Bolt, the Nissan EV might be outpacing the Bolt on sales because it’s available for 50 percent off in some places.
A lack of infrastructure also makes the leap to a Bolt a tad harder to overcome. While the Bolt and Leaf are roughly even when it comes to charge times, the Bolt can’t charge as fast as the upcoming Model 3, making long-distance commuting a hassle. Range anxiety is still a huge issue for the industry to overcome. In a story last month for Green Car Reports, Bolt EV owner Dawn Hall recounted the difficulty of finding a charging station along a lengthy route, causing the highly-touted 238 mile range to plummet:
On paper, the Bolt has a range of 238 miles, so our plan was to try to make it all the way before our first charging stop, a distance of about 185 miles and about 2 hours 45 minutes away from home.
As it turned out, we ended up stopping in both King City and Paso Robles for quick top-ups and bathroom breaks.
With my little lead foot taking us down the freeway at an average of 80 mph, we got nowhere near the 238-mile rated range. After 103 miles, we showed only 70 miles of remaining range.
But it’s still puzzling to see the Leaf outpace the Bolt in sales. Dealers told the Mercury News that they have a backup of inventory following slow sales in February.
So maybe the trick is to get more people behind the wheel of one for a test drive. The Hyundai Ioniq stuck out to me as a very normal car that would be a palatable transition for a typical car buyer who’s skeptical of EVs. The Bolt, as our Andrew Collins earlier recounted, essentially did the same. But if these numbers hold throughout the remainder of 2017, we may have found the answer to whether an electric revolution is ever going to take hold.