Hot on the heels of General Motors (s GM) unveiling an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty for its upcoming Chevy Volt, Nissan (s NSANY) announced today at the Plug-in 2010 conference in San Jose, Calif. that it will offer the same warranty for the battery in its all-electric LEAF sedan.
A race is heating up between the two automakers, with GM announcing a 36-month lease offer for the Volt ($350/month with a $2,500 down payment) that just about matches the one Nissan announced for the LEAF in March ($349/month with a $1,999 down payment). Both models are slated to roll out in select markets late this year.
To understand the calculations that go into setting these warranties, it’s helpful to think of plug-in vehicles in two general categories: all-electric models with zero tailpipe emissions (such as the LEAF), and hybrid models (with or without a plug) that use electricity but also have an internal combustion engine that produces emissions when it’s in use (like the Volt).
This distinction is important because the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has set a 10-year or 150,000-mile standard for batteries in vehicles designated as “partial zero emission vehicles,” or PZEV.
GM has told us it hopes to achieve what’s called enhanced AT-PZEV status by the 2013 model year of the Volt in order to qualify for certain credits and purchase incentives that could help bring the car within reach for a broader swath of the market.
That lofty 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty target is a moot point for the LEAF, because with its all-electric drive it can qualify as a zero-emission vehicle. But Nissan seems to be choosing GM as the competitor to beat in the initial roll-out of plug-in cars targeted for eventual mass market adoption.
Nissan’s LEAF warranty marks a departure from what’s available for the high-end Tesla Roadster, which has ZEV status and is the only highway-capable electric vehicle currently sold in significant numbers in the U.S.
Tesla Motors (s TSLA) offers a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty for just three years or 36,000 miles for the Roadster, including the battery. New Roadster buyers also have an option to pay $12,000 up front (non-refundable) to get a one-time battery replacement after seven years of ownership.
Nissan and GM are both trying to chart new territory with their upcoming plug-ins. The models would seem to appeal to different segments of the market, depending on their range needs, motivation to ditch gasoline entirely, location, budget and other factors. But as the Detroit News put it, “the two automakers will be battling for hearts and minds through the rest of 2010.” Let the games begin.
Images courtesy of Nissan
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