Cost to operate
Next up is where the rubber meets the road. Just exactly how much does it cost to take one of these bad boys down the road for a spin? Here are the numbers based on a combination of 45% highway driving, 55% city driving, an annual average of 15,000 miles, and current (at the time of this article) average fuel prices using the manufacturer’s recommended fuel type ($3.63 premium / $3.35 regular unleaded).
- Volt $1,480 (premium unleaded gas only); $648 (electric only)
- Leaf $612 (electric)
- Prius V $1,207 (regular unleaded gas)
While these numbers make sense on the surface, there’s more than operating costs than meets the eye. Electricity prices vary widely from one part of the country to the next, so keep this in mind when doing your own calculations. In addition, only the Volt and the Leaf need an external plug to charge up their battery, and charging times will vary according to use. The Prius V uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Technically, it is a hybrid, but it doesn’t require an electrical outlet to charge its batteries.
How many horses are under the hood?
Horsepower has been a measurement of the raw power an automotive engine can produce for as long as the horseless carriage has been around. It’s a little complicated these days, however, with the addition of electrical motors that add to the actual power produced in a hybrid system. In each of the hybrid ratings below, you’ll see a number corresponding to the gasoline motor, the electric motor, and the combined power output of the system. (In the case of the Leaf, it’s just the electric motor, since the vehicle is all-electric.)
- Volt 84 hp (gas) + 72 hp (electric), 149 hp (combined)
- Leaf 107 hp
- Prius V 98 hp (gas) + 80 hp (electric), 134 hp (combined)
The price is right
Finally, we get down to the brass tacks. What’s it going to cost you to own one of these next-generation vehicles? The good news is that the Volt and the Leaf could qualify for up to $7,500 in federal tax rebates, with additional rebates possible in some states. You’ll have to check with your local dealer for all the details, but that will knock down the price significantly. Below are the current manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for each of the base models. Throw those rebates in on the Volt and Leaf, and you’ll see that they aren’t that far off from the Prius V.
- Volt $39,145
- Leaf $35,200
- Prius V $26,400
All in all … it’s up to you
So which vehicle is right for you? As you can see from the factors we’ve listed above, there are many things to consider. There is definitely a trade-off when it comes to raw power. You’ll also note that the vehicles requiring an external electrical charge (the Volt and the Leaf) are more expensive than the self-contained Prius V. With the electrical vehicles comes a great savings in operating costs, but at a reduction in overall range. This is especially evident on the Leaf, where there is no gasoline-powered back-up feature available.
In the end, the decision is yours, of course. If you’re looking for an entry-level vehicle that will make you feel good about owning a hybrid and going green, perhaps the Prius V will do the trick. If your commute is mostly local and you want to lower your own carbon footprint as much as possible, the Nissan Leaf won’t be all that much of a stretch. Last but not least, the Volt makes a nice addition to any green household, allowing you to choose just how green you want to be when you’re out there on the road.
To find out more about each of these vehicles, visit the manufacturer’s websites:
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