The great electric car race of 2010
This year, more automakers will roll out electric cars to American roadways.
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Leaf waiting lists have sprouted at a few dealers. Although the price has not been announced, it is expected to be well under $30,000 – perhaps in the $27,000 range, one dealer suggests. A final price is expected this spring.Skip to next paragraph
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"We've got about 30 names on our list already," says Jim Bone, sales manager at Nissan of Santa Rosa, Calif., one of the first dealers to offer a wait list. "In June we'll ask for a deposit, probably about $1,000."
With several competitors waiting in the wings, plug-ins were the focus of this year's Detroit Auto Show. Twenty vehicles lined the convention's "Electric Avenue," where promoters hyped watts instead of gallons.
The $87,000 Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), is a 150-mile-per-hour sports car. It already has a backlog of hundreds of orders; production is expected to begin this spring or summer. Forecasts suggest sales of up to 15,000 next year.
German automaker Daimler has said it hopes to sell its Smart ED, an all-electric battery-powered vehicle later in the year. So does BYD Auto, a Chinese entrant that plans to begin selling its four-door passenger e6 all-electric vehicle, reports Plug In America. Coda Automotive intends to join the crowd selling a Chinese-made passenger car initially in California.
"It will really be 2011 before the rest of the country starts seeing these and many other types of electric-drive vehicles," concedes Paul Scott, vice president of Plug In America in California. "But this is a major first step."
Conspicuous by its absence in this year's plug-in race is Toyota, whose Prius hybrid leads the green-driving trend – at least until the Chevy Volt arrives. The giant Japanese carmaker promises to sell an "affordable" plug-in Prius in 2011 that can travel about 14 miles on a charge before a gas motor kicks in. It will sell for less than $33,700, a Toyota official said last month.
Despite Toyota's absence, Mr. Scott says this year will be the first chance to see what it's really like: plugging a car in at night and gliding off to work in the morning using little or no gasoline for weeks or months. It's a reality shift that's already sending chills up the spines of greenies and neocons alike – the prospect of saving the environment and cutting oil imports, too.
With the US importing 4 million barrels of oil a day – about 1.5 billion a year – from "dangerous or unstable" nations in 2008, the liberal Center for American Progress calls oil dependence "a dangerous habit."
It's an expensive one, too. About $150 billion flows annually to 10 nations on the State Department's "warning list," including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, the center says in a recent report.