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Mileage measurements sure to puzzle electric-car shoppers

December 22, 2010
According to the government, the car with the highest mileage per gallon on the market doesn't use a single drop of gasoline.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, which was delivered to its first owners this month, runs entirely on battery. But the Environmental Protection Agency says it can travel 99 miles on the equivalent of a single gallon of fuel.

The mileage-equivalent ratings, meant to help potential buyers compare electric cars with others in their class, are befuddling some consumers who see them as an automotive example of comparing apples and oranges.

The EPA isn't the only entity comparing the clean-fuel cars with autos that have traditional internal combustion engines. Their ratings, which will be posted on car windows, may end up sharing space with stickers from the Federal Trade Commission and the automakers themselves.

"It's a whole new world that needs to be rated," Nissan spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said. "It is, for sure, complicated, since there is really no gallon. For now, the consumer is going to have to decipher everything and see how to make it work for them."

The Leaf will be sold with a sticker saying that it can reach up to 106 mpg in the city. The previous record-holder, the Toyota Prius hybrid, was rated at 51 mpg in urban settings.
The Leaf score is straightforward compared with the one given to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid plug-in that switches to gasoline when its electricity supply runs out. The Volt doesn't just have an overall rating.