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GM Volt's price induces some sticker shock
The president has expressed optimism that automakers will be able to lower the price tag of electric-vehicle technology. Earlier this month, he suggested that major reductions in battery costs, one of the primary reasons electric cars are more expensive, are on the horizon.
"Because of advances in the manufacturing, [battery] costs are expected to come down by nearly 70 percent in the next few years," Obama said at the site of a planned battery factory in Michigan. "That's going to make electric and hybrid cars and trucks more affordable for more Americans."
Both the Volt and the Leaf will cost considerably more than rival gasoline-powered compact sedans, such as the Honda Civic or the Ford Focus, each of which costs under $20,000.
Price is only one potential barrier to mass adoption, however.
Consumers must also get accustomed to plugging the cars in at home. It takes hours to recharge the vehicles, and in the absence of a network of public recharging stations, drivers that run out of juice may need a tow truck.
Both Nissan and GM are planning relatively low production levels at first, especially compared with the more than 11 million vehicles expected to be sold nationwide next year.
GM plans to produce 10,000 Volts next year, and 30,000 in 2012, company officials have said. Nissan has indicated that it will sell about 25,000 Leafs in the United States next year.
As the only two major manufacturers preparing to mass-produce cars that can run on batteries, GM and Nissan are engaged in a debate over price and capability.
On purchase price, the Leaf is significantly less, though the leasing prices are very similar. The Volt will also be available by lease with a monthly payment of $350 for 36 months and $2,500 due at signing, the company said.
"The Chevrolet Volt will be the best vehicle in its class . . . because it's in a class by itself," said Joel Ewanick, vice president of U.S. marketing for GM. "No other automaker offers an electrically driven vehicle that can be your everyday driver, to take you wherever, whenever."