This may seem like a contradiction, but a recent study done by the United States Department of Energy [DOE] seems to indicate that drivers of the Chevy Volt go more miles on electricity than do Nissan Leaf drivers.
For a little background, the Nissan Leaf is a pure electric vehicle [EV], powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, with a range of about 75 miles per charge. The Chevy Volt, an extended-range EV [EREV] on the other hand, is powered by both a lithium-ion battery pack and a gasoline-powered backup generator, or range-extender. In both of these vehicles, the electric motors are the sole driving force at the wheels, but in the case of the Chevy Volt, the backup generator can provide more juice for the battery when the state of charge [SOC] is depleted. When the Nissan Leaf SOC gets near zero, there is no backup, so a recharge is required.
Interestingly, it seems that this one small detail has translated into Chevy Volt drivers going more miles on electricity alone than Nissan Leaf drivers, in spite of the fact that the Chevy Volt has slightly more than half the EV range, about 37 miles. According to the DOE study, EV Project Vehicle Summary Report, Chevy Volt drivers put about 760mi/mo on electricity alone, while Nissan Leaf drivers put on just 630mi/mo. Additionally, the study determined that Chevy Volt drivers charged an average of 1.5x/day, while Nissan Leaf Drivers charged an average of just 1.1x/day.
Green Car Reports theorizes that the reason for these numbers could be that those who commute longer distances are more likely to choose the Chevy Volt’s longer overall range over the Nissan Leaf’s longer EV range. Personally, I think the range-extender lets Chevy Volt drivers use their lithium-ion battery packs to the maximum, without worrying that they’ll run out of range and be stuck on the highway. Nissan Leaf drivers, on the other hand, are [probably] more likely to leave themselves a little wiggle room when it comes to determining how far to drive per charge.