First Electric Cars in Napa County Roll off the Showroom


The Chevrolet Volt looks like your run of the mill mid sized passenger car, until you look at it more closely. Unlike ordinary cars, there’s no tailpipe and near the driver’s side door is a port that looks like a gas pump opening, but is actually a socket. There’s also no radiator and there is only one gear to move forward.

Unlike older Chevys, this one is battery powered. Many first buyers of the Volt are enamored with the vehicle. Amongst them is Robert deLeuze, the CEO of ZD wines. In another showroom, this time Nissan’s, the first electric powered Leaf was sold to filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.

DeLeuze said that the Volt was a brilliant idea. His drive towards being green extends to his business where the company employs solar panels to generate electricity for its use. He also has a fleet of Prius and Camry hybrids but he wanted to have the first petroleum free car for his work. “It’s a perfect opportunity to be as ecological as I can be,” said deLeuze, who currently drives a Toyota Highlander.

There is a downside though as the electric car costs $44,000 but this is lowered with a $7,500 federal tax incentive and rebates from his charging station, together with electricity from the solar panels help in assuming the cost.

The Volt has a fully charged range of 379 miles and for the first 35 miles the car runs purely on electricity. After such distance, a gas engine then takes over to run a generator to provide electrical power to the electrical motor. So the gas used is not for the car but for the generator that powers the car.

In studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the first 35 miles of the Volt is equivalent to 93 miles per gallon in gasoline equivalent. When the gas engine is used, then the Volt is able to go 37 miles to the gallon. The dealership expects to sell at most eight units in 2011 and the waiting list for the prized electric car is five months.

For DeLeuze, the commutes 40 miles daily and has solar powered charging stations at home and at work. Since he can charge the batteries of the Volt throughout its use, then the gas engine may not need to be used.

For Coppola’s Nissan Leaf, it has a sticker price of $32,000 but buyers can enjoy a $7,500 federal tax rebate while there is a $5,000 state tax rebate. It runs on full electricity and gets 99 miles to the gallon in gasoline equivalent. The Leaf can run a distance of 130 miles per charge depending on the driver. It has added features of power generation during braking and charging using the solar panel installed in the roof of the car.

With electric cars rolling off the dealership, expect more and more consumers switching to green cars in the near future.