Leaf Blows Away Volt In March Electric Car Sales

The two highest-profile electric vehicles in the United States experienced vastly different fortunes in March: the Nissan Leaf had its best month ever, while the Chevy Volt was way down compared to the same month in 2012.

Nissan said it moved 2,236 Leafs in March, the first full month with lower prices and delivery of all the cars from the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., factory.

2013 Nissan Leaf (image via Nissan)

2013 Nissan Leaf (image via Nissan)

GM, meanwhile, said the Volt putted along with 1,478 cars sold, down 35 percent from March 2012. Year to date, Volt sales (4,244) are running 8.5 percent above last year’s three-month total (3,915). But a strong remainder of the year pushed Volt sales to 23,461 in 2012, and there’s no telling if 2013 will bring a similar uptick.

That could be a scary thought for GM execs, who reportedly had been of a mind that 36,000 Volts would roll out of dealerships this year. Is the Leaf turning out to be a worthy competitor?

2013 Chevy Volt (image via GM)

2013 Chevy Volt (image via GM)

Certainly the Leaf is a very different car – smaller, way cheaper, without the extended drive capability that the Volt offers. Still, it does appear to be sucking up a little more of the electric car oxygen in the atmosphere in 2013.

Consider: Through the first three months of 2012, Nissan sold 1,733 Leafs in the United States. This year, first quarter sales more than doubled, to 3,539.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.