Although the classic internal combustion engine continues to rule, the runaway success of the Toyota Prius hybrid has convinced automakers worldwide that there’s a sizeable — and potentially lucrative — market for "eco-friendly" cars among American consumers. Hoping to do the Prius and other hybrids one better, automakers are preparing to unleash at least seven all-electric (or at least primarily electric) vehicles on the consumer market in 2011. Boasting greater endurance and convenience than the experimental EV-1 electrics that General Motors offered for lease a decade ago, this latest generation of electric cars is expected to cause considerable excitement when they appear on America’s streets in the coming months.
Here are the seven electric cars to watch for in 2011:
- The Nissan Leaf. Perhaps the most talked-about car of the bunch, the Leaf is scheduled to debut in a few select markets in December 2010 and then roll out nationally in 2012. The car is believed to have a range of 47 to 138 miles per charge and will have an initial MSRP of $25,000, which puts it in the "affordable" range for many buyers. Among its many innovative features is a small solar panel on its rear spoiler that can help augment the main power supply when outdoors.
- The Chevy Volt. As GM’s pet project for years, the Volt is technically a hybrid since it needs a gasoline-powered engine to go beyond 40 miles. But for "average" commuters, the Volt’s battery can provide all-electric power for those daily drives to and from work without having to touch a drop of gas. Starting at $45,000, the Volt is considered way pricey for what it delivers, but federal tax credits and a very affordable lease program may make it competitive among eco-conscious buyers. The car is scheduled to debut this November.
- Fortwo ED. Built by the same Daimler subsidiary that makes the two-seater SMART car, the Fortwo ED is basically a Tesla motor on a SMART chassis. Said to have a range of 84 miles at its top speed of 62 mph, the Fortwo ED is best seen as an urban runabout or surface street commuter car. (It would get crushed on any high-speed freeway.) Available for lease only for $599 month (ouch!), the car is scheduled to debut in select U.S. cities in October 2010 and then have a full nationwide release in 2012.
- Coda Sedan. "Coda" is an all-new car company based in Santa Monica, Calif. Its debut product, the Sedan, is actually a Chinese Hafei Saiba five-passenger car equipped with an electric motor. Coda says its Sedan has a range of 120 miles on a single charge, and that the battery can go from empty to full in just six hours via a 220-V charging station. The price is expected to be in the low $30,000 after incentives. The Coda Sedan is scheduled to hit the market later this year.
- Tesla Roadster. Already available in limited numbers, the $109,000 Roadster is a favorite of high-profile stars like George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The car not only has an impressive 225+ mile range, but its 248 horsepower motor, tight turning radius and ability to jump from 0 to 60 in just 3.2 seconds makes it a legitimate "sports car" even if it doesn’t roar like a southbound freight train.
- Tesla Model S. Tesla’s planned follow-up to its Roadster is the Model S, designed to compete with the likes of BMW’s 5 series. With a body designed by Henrik Fisker, who also designed the elegant Aston Martin DB9, the Model S will come in two models: the $57,000 standard with a 160-mile range, and the $65,000 premium, which offers enhanced performance and a 300-miles range. Look for the Model S to appear in late 2011 or early 2012.
- Fisker Karma. When Henrik Fisker (see above) finished designing the Model S for Tesla, he immediately partnered with Quantum Technologies to create an all-electric car under his own name, which made the Tesla people none too happy. Regardless of how the courts sort things out, the Karma looks like an impressive product, offering a range of 50 miles (250 additional miles with hybrid gas power), a top speed of 125 mph and the ability to go from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds. The anticipated MSRP: $87,900. It’s expected to debut in February 2011.
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