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Nissan's all-electric Leaf challenges GM Volt and Toyota Prius

With a federal tax credit and state rebates, the price for Nissan's zero-emission, all-electric Leaf could be just above $20,000. Fully charged, it'll go 100 miles.

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Mr. Scott and others see plug-ins as a way for the US to replace foreign oil used for transportation with domestically generated electricity, while also addressing climate change. With carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants expected to come under federal control, electricity will be the cleanest, cheapest fuel, he says. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, are headed up, he notes.

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Leaf puts pressure on Volt and Prius

"This Leaf pricing is really going to light a fire under the competition," Scott says. "It means that GM is going to have to get competitive with the pricing of the Chevy Volt, and the Toyota Prius is going to feel the heat, too."

Some analysts had speculated that the Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that runs on batteries for 40 miles before a gasoline generator on board kicks in, would sell for about $40,000 – unaffordable for most people, even after tax rebates. But for months, GM has been saying its pricing for the Volt – which goes on sale this fall – would be lower than that, and that battery costs were being overestimated by scientific panels.

"I think it's fair to say their pricing, it won't overwhelm, but it will have some influence on our pricing decision," Rob Peterson, a GM spokesman told the Associated Press.

Nissan has said it will begin taking "consumer reservations" for the Leaf on April 20 from a list of people who have already submitted their names on its website. At that time, the company will require a refundable $99 reservation fee. Reserving a Nissan Leaf ensures a place in line when Nissan begins taking orders in August, the company says.

Initially, the car will be available in select markets, including California, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts. The company expects to be selling the vehicles nationwide by the end of 2011.