DETROIT General Motors Co. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt electric car will start at $41,000 when it goes on sale in November.
While the price is about $8,000 more than its closest rival, the Nissan Leaf, GM will offer a $350-per-month lease deal thats essentially identical to the Leafs. That will put the battery-powered Volt within reach of many people, GM said.
Both cars also are eligible for a federal tax credit that will cut their prices by $7,500. The Volts price would fall to $33,500, while the Leafs would drop to $25,280 from $32,780. Some states, such as California, Georgia and Oregon, offer additional tax breaks that lower the price further.
The Volt, a 4-door sedan, runs on battery power for up to 40 miles but has a small gasoline engine to generate electricity once the battery runs down. The gas engine can generate power to run the car another 300 miles.
Thats a big selling point because some drivers worry about the battery going dead during trips. This so-called range anxiety dogged GMs experimental EV-1 electric car in the 1990s.
To give the car wider appeal, drivers must know theyre not going to get stranded, said Joel Ewanick, GM vice president of U.S. marketing.
Nissans Leaf, which goes on sale in December, can go up to 100 miles on a charge. The car doesnt have a gas engine and must be recharged once its battery is depleted. Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary said the Leaf itself emits no pollution and is designed for people whose daily travels are within its range.
GMs $350-a-month lease deal is for 36 months with $2,500 down. Nissans lease plan is $349 a month over the same period with $1,995 down.
The lease deals are particularly appealing because they are close to those offered with conventional cars. But depending on how far they drive, drivers would not have to pay for gasoline. GM said it would cost about $1.50 worth of electricity to fully recharge the Volt each night.
GM earlier this month offered an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the Volts battery to allay fears that owners could get stuck with the hefty price of replacing the power pack. Nissan matched that warranty Tuesday, a day that saw competing electric car announcements from the two automakers.
GM will sell the Volt first in California, then move to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Michigan and Texas. Orders are being taken at 600 Chevrolet dealers in those states. But in 12 to 18 months, dealers nationwide should offer the cars.
Nissan said Tuesday that 17,000 people have placed orders for the Leaf so far in the United States. Buyers in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee will get the first Leaf deliveries in December. The Leaf will go on sale in other markets through 2011 and be available nationwide by the end of next year.