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GM hopes $41,000 electric Volt will be powerful seller

DETROIT -- General Motors Co. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt electric car will start at $41,000 when it goes on sale in November.

While the price is about $8,000 more than its closest rival, the Nissan Leaf, GM will offer a $350-per-month lease deal that's essentially identical to the Leaf's. That will put the battery-powered Volt within reach of many people, GM said.

Both cars also are eligible for a federal tax credit that will cut their prices by $7,500. The Volt's price would fall to $33,500 while the Leaf's would drop to $25,280 from $32,780. Some states, such as California, Georgia and Oregon, offer additional tax breaks that lower the price further.

The Volt, a 4-door sedan, runs on battery power for up to 40 miles but has a small gasoline engine to generate electricity once the battery runs down. The gas engine can generate power to run the car another 300 miles.

That's a big selling point because some drivers worry about the battery going dead during trips. This so-called ''range anxiety'' dogged GM's experimental EV-1 electric car in the 1990s.

To give the car wider appeal, drivers must know ''they're not going to get stranded,'' said Joel Ewanick, GM vice president U.S. marketing.

Nissan's Leaf, which goes on sale in December, can go up to 100 miles on a charge. The car doesn't have a gas engine and must be recharged once its battery is depleted. Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary said the Leaf itself emits no pollution and is designed for people whose daily travels are within its range.

GM's $350-a-month lease deal is for 36 months with $2,500 down. Nissan's lease plan is $349 a month over the same period with $1,995 down.

The lease deals are particularly appealing because they are close to those offered with conventional cars. But depending on how far they drive, drivers would not have to pay for gasoline. GM said it would cost about $1.50 worth of electricity to fully recharge the Volt each night.