Six Hot New Electric Cars Soon to Hit Showrooms
Analysts predict many of us will be driving electric vehicles in the near future. Much-anticipated models are coming from Nissan, Ford, Chevy, Fisker and others.
The electrics are coming! By the end of the year, at least six battery-powered vehicles will be on the U.S. market. The cars will finally go from revolving on show stands to dealer floors, and we'll finally know if consumers mean it when they say in opinion polls that they'll consider an EV for their next purchase. Most of these cars will charge in five or six hours on 220-volt home current, and overnight on 110. Fifteen-minute fast charging (480 volts) may be available at some public stations, maybe even at your favorite big-box store.
Here's a rundown of the cars headed for showrooms, some from major manufacturers and others from ambitious startups. Four are battery-only cars, one is a plug-in hybrid and the sixth (the Chevrolet Volt) is a unique combination of the two.
This is the new paradigm of the car, and it will change our industry," said Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of Nissan, introducing the battery-powered Leaf in Los Angeles. "It will also change the way people use and power their vehicles."
The Leaf, an all-new design, has a range of 100 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries. Nissan is unique among carmakers in also partnering with charging companies and municipalities to make sure the Leaf will have public places to plug in. Even though the car hasn't been priced yet (it could be $23,000, plus batteries), 25,000 "handraisers" have said they're willing to buy one. I drove a "mule" version of the Leaf, and found it great fun — the electric motor gives it great performance right off the line. Available at the end of the year at a Nissan dealership near you.
The Volt is not only a huge departure for usually conservative General Motors, it's also a giant leap for cars in general. The all-new Volt sedan is unique: Its li-ion battery pack offers go-power for 40 miles of electric range, but then a small gasoline engine kicks in as a generator to supply electricity to the motor. That sets you up for longer trips, because the gas engine will keep the car going for a total of 400 miles.
The Volt will sell for around $40,000, but a federal tax incentive will reduce that to the low $30s. I drove a pre-production Volt and this is not grandpa's Chevy: Like the Leaf, the Volt is loads of fun to drive and explodes off the line. The first Volts will arrive at the end of the year, as 2011 models.
Ford has a multi-channel approach to EVs (electric vehicles). This year it will roll out an electric version of the Transit Connect van, and for 2011 we'll see a limited-production, battery-powered version of the new Focus, with the drivetrain engineered by Canada's Magna International. As with many other EVs, it will have a 100-mile range on lithium-ion batteries. Ford is being conservative with the electric Focus, and will probably make less than 5,000 annually in the first year or two.
For 2012, the carmaker will roll out a plug-in hybrid, possibly based on the Escape. There is a small fleet of electric Focus cars being tested now, and two of them are in the hands of Jay Leno, who's been using them on his test track for the "Green Car Challenge." I tried one out there, but Drew Barrymore had a faster time than I did.
Coda is based in California, but its electric car is an international citizen, based on a Chinese design but with a battery-based drivetrain sourced from all over. The Coda, many of whose creators have Goldman Sachs connections, stands out because of the unusual attention to detail that went into it. To ensure a battery supply, CEO Kevin Czinger formed a joint venture with a Chinese company. His packs are unlikely to suffer from cold-weather performance problems (as some of BMW's Mini Es have) because the Coda has a system to both heat and cool them.
The Coda isn't as snazzy looking as the Volt or the Leaf, but it's equally willing on the road — as a recent dash around the leafy lanes of Greenwich, Connecticut proved. The Coda will be available, initially in California only, later this year. The price is around $40,000, but that goes down to $32,500 with the federal tax benefit.
This is the glamor boy of the coming EVs, and it's a plug-in hybrid. What's that, you say? Think of a Toyota Prius, but with a larger battery pack and the ability to recharge from a wall socket. Other plug-in hybrids are coming from Ford and Toyota. The Karma is as sexy as the Tesla Roadster, but with four doors and a gas engine for longer trips. Journalists haven't actually driven the Karma yet, but it's supposed to have 50 miles of all-electric range and a zero to 60 time of 5.8 seconds.
As with the Tesla, you pay for that rip-roaring ability: The Karma (which has a more expensive convertible version) will sell for $87,900 when it reaches showrooms in September. Fisker got a controversial $529 million Department of Energy loan to build its next-generation car, the Nina, and recently announced that it is consolidating all of its operations in California (and closing down in Pontiac, Michigan).
This cute little bugger has an interesting history. The company is Norwegian, and for a few years (1999 to 2003) it was owned by Ford, which did a lot of engineering work on the car but conspicuously failed to sell very many of them. Now Think is preparing to build its two-seat City, with U.S. battery supplier Ener1 as a partner, in hard-hit Elkhart, Indiana.
The car I drove in Detroit, built in Norway, was quick off the line but a bit noisy and with heavy steering — both things will be fixed before it hits the American market for less than $20,000 (minus batteries and including the federal tax credit) later this year.
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Who says that an electric car is GREEN? Have you ever wondered about the BATTERIES? Gee i wonder what it takes to create a battery and more importantly, how do you dispose of the toxic waste after the battery has out lived it's time. The fact is I can drive my truck for 15 years and not pollute the earth as badly as those batteries. And by the way those batteries won't last as long as the combustion engine and will be very very costly to replace and the cycle continues.
The batteries are manufactured over seas and anything goes in most countries. Just look at the massive pollution the world has incurred in China. Rivers are polluted to the point that clean water is hard to find for MILLIONS of people in that country.
Most people think in terms of all or nothing. Electric cars offer choice. They are not for everyone, but a family with a couple cars should have at least one. A large percentage of people make short trips around town or even to work. In terms of battery disposal...how about the dump filled with car parts and oil.
Electricity doesn't have to be expensive or produce pollution. Unless the sun disappears, we have solar access to it. Innovation starts with more thinking and less complaining.
You flatlanders are welcome to your overgrown golf carts, but I live in snow country at 7,560' Above Sea Level, & I need something that can buck its way through a moderate snow, which my Ford Ranger, small in comparison to a full-size pickup, will do, especially when in 4-wheel drive.
Even so, most any one of these golf carts would serve me well four or five months out of the year, particularly because retired I don't drive very much. But they're awfully danged expensive. Guess I'll wait until, if it does, the Ford drops to a price I can afford.
Partial to Ford products berause when a G.I. in Viet-Nam I went to the PX & paid down $500. on a new Ford that was to be awaiting me at a dealer in the States when I rotated out of Viet-Nam in early March 1970. But dummie I got myself into a firefight on 22 January, 1970, one in which I was severely WIA & evacuated from 'Nam on a stretcher.
When I got to an Army medical center in Denver had my family notify Ford I'd not be picking up my car on schedule, if ever, because I was thought to be wheel-chair bound for life.
So what'd Ford do? It sent two men to my hospital bed, one of whom told me not to fret about the car, Ford'd take care it. Then the other guy handed me a check for $500., my deposit on the car. If $500. doesn't seem like much money, keep in mind in those days a draft beer cost 5 cents, a fast-food hamburger, 15 cents & a gallon of gasoline 12 to 15 cents. I remember vividly, I once a heavy soker, how angry I was when the price of a pack of cigarettes jumped from 10 cents to 11 cents. Hey, that was a 10% price hike & I was highly P.O.ed about it.
You can roughly tell the ages of old goats such as I by watching to see if we'll stoop over to pick up a penny. Most of us will, because once it was money.
Yes, probably either GM or Chrysler would have treated me as well as Ford did. But it's a big difference, I know Ford treated me, a WIA G.I. very decently & I'll remember Ford favorably to the day I die.