Musk: Why Model S is Better Than Volt Or Leaf

Presently the top-three best selling electrified vehicles in the U.S. are the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt, and of these, the CEO of Tesla offered Bloomberg his opinion on why his company’s product beats the other two.

The Volt, says Elon Musk, is “a bit of an amphibian” and is “OK but not great” as it provides all-electric operation with only 38 miles EPA-rated battery range or gas operation modestly rated at 37 mpg.

The Leaf, he says, has electric range that’s too low, being rated at “75 miles” by the EPA with a 90-percent battery charge, or 84 miles with 100-percent battery charge.

“It’s just too short of a range to be useful,” Musk said.

Further, he said, neither the Chevrolet nor Nissan handle the road very well or look very good, nor are they nearly as quick as the Model S, and they lack in fit and finish and in their electronics.

So there you have it. Hands down, there is no competition as to which is best, says Musk.

One thing he did not mention in the clip is that the Model S costs easily double what the Volt or Leaf does, starting at just over $71,000 and capable of optioning out to over $133,000.

The average new car price is just shy of $31,000, and the Volt which as of 2014 starts at $34,995 and the 2013 Leaf which starts at $29,650 are within this threshold when factoring the full $7,500 federal tax credit and potential state subsidies.

This said, Musk makes points that on the surface have merit to one degree or another – speaking in qualified and subjective terms, we would add.

More details to round the story would include that the Leaf and Volt are well-regarded by most reviewers, each have won numerous design and engineering awards, and do offer quality and value perceived to many.

In short, the Leaf and Volt attract a different kind of customer, and offer a different set of advantages.

The Volt’s electric range is considered acceptable for the average daily driving distance of under 40 miles that studies say is needed for upwards of 75 percent of Americans. It also offers convenience in that it runs on gas so there is no anxiety over whether one will run out of charge and maybe be stranded in a land where charging stations still are vastly outnumbered by gas pumps.

Is this a negative or a positive for the Volt? Musk says one thing, other people say something quite to the contrary.


As for the Leaf, it does accept DC quick charging which makes doubling its daily range possible for those who can take advantage of it. And it can be charged intra-day merely by plugging in to a more conventional level 1 or 2 charger at a destination, where possible, such as while parked at work.

The Leaf’s electric efficiency (MPGe) is also 115 combined – higher than the 89 MPGe for the fastest Model S or 95 MPGe for the 60-kwh version.

Really though, one can spin the pros and cons for these three cars any number of ways, and we will not touch the ultimate question of what is “best” with a 10-foot pole – actually, since these cars are in separate sub-categories, we don’t think this question can be unequivocally answered for all.

As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and Elon Musk has not surprisingly declared his preference in cars.

He’s entitled to his view. What is yours?

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