Why I Bought a Chevy Volt, and a Tesla May Be Next

You can chalk up the Munarriz household as one of the few -- and proud -- Chevy Volt owners.

I went car shopping with my wife over the weekend. She had been enamored of General Motors' (NYS: GM) revolutionary plug-in hybrid for months, so it's where we went first.

Our first and only stop was our closest Chevy dealer. There were just two Volts on the lot. Judging by my area inventory checks in recent weeks it seemed to be the same two cars that had been sitting there for some time. Whether it's the stiff prices or Volt's battery-pack woes that have since been remedied, driving this Chevy to the levy has truly been dry.

This is normally the kind of dream situation that a knowledgeable buyer can pounce on, but preliminary checks through car-shopping services found that Chevrolet dealers weren't discounting the Volt by much.

We got lucky. We scored a reasonable discount, a sweet interior upgrade, and more than we were expecting on our trade-in. My wife is loving her new car.

Why did we go with the Volt over Nissan's (OTC: NSANY) Leaf or save up to splurge on Tesla's (NAS: TSLA) Model S sedan that hits the market in July? As a Ford (NYS: F) investor -- and owner myself -- I could've gotten a shareholder discount on the all-electric Focus model that will be coming out in a few months. Why did we pass?

Range anxiety!

All-electric cars are still limited by the range of their lithium-ion batteries. The Leaf has a range of 100 miles on a single charge. Tesla's entry-level Model S tops off at 160 miles, and it will cost drivers $70,000 for the Model S with the upgraded battery to get 300 miles between charges.

The Volt's battery is lightweight in comparison. It's good for roughly 35 miles between charges. However, a smallish gas tank is there to provide hundreds of miles of additional flexibility after the electric power runs out. Given my wife's brief daily commutes, it will probably be several months between stops at the gas station. She'll probably forget which side of the car has the nozzle opening.

However, it was the fear of taking the car out on a family road trip that nixed the all-electrics from our checklist. Gas stations are plentiful. Electric charging stations are still few and far between.

The electric car revolution has been a dud so far. It has deteriorated from being an environmental or economical shift to an unfortunate political tussle -- at least as it pertains to the Volt. However, as lithium-ion cells get cheaper and charging stations become more prevalent, drivers will come around.

I'm already dreaming of a Tesla Model X -- falcon wings and all -- to replace my Ford Flex in a few years. It may sound crazy now, but something tells me it will seem far more sensible in the future.

Hit the road
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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford Motor, General Motors, and Tesla Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Ford. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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