For American drivers interested in electric vehicles, the options have been limited. The only true EV currently sold in the marketplace is the Nissan Leaf, and until recently it’s only been available in a handful of states. The gas-electric hybrid Chevy Volt is unduly expensive (upwards of $40K) for what it is: a GM sedan. But very soon, green-minded drivers fascinated with the latest tech will have at least three more road-ready EVs to choose from—and based on the features of some amazing new concept electric cars, there will be plenty of even more exciting options down the line.
Ford Focus EV
Ford is planning on releasing five new EVs over the next three years, starting with the electric version of the Focus. The compact sedan EV is expected to go on sale in California and New York toward the end of 2011, though no pricing information has been released. Ford will roll the Focus out to other big markets such as Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Houston in the spring of 2012. The Focus EV will be able to be driven roughly 70 miles on a charge (about the same as the Nissan Leaf), though when using a 240-volt charging station, the Focus recharges in three to four hours—about half the time it takes to recharge a Leaf.
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Already on the market in countries such as Australia, England, and Japan,
Mitsubishi’s new four-passenger EV—which is probably going to be known just as the Mitsubishi i because no one knows how to pronounce the full name—is expected to go on sale to American consumers in early 2012. At 2,600 pounds, Mitsubishi’s rounded, bubble-shaped vehicle is the lightest EV on sale to the general public in the near future. It’s also anticipated to be the least expensive widely available EV, with a base MSRP just under $28,000.
Toyota RAV4 EV
Most automakers are going strictly with smaller model EVs. Not Toyota, which is manufacturing an electric version of its mini-SUV, the RAV4 EV. To dispel rumors that the RAV4 EV would only be available via car-sharing programs and fleet sales, Toyota recently confirmed the vehicle would be sold to the general public, starting sometime in 2012. Another of Toyota’s EVs, the four-passenger “micro-subcompact” called the Scion iQ EV, will only be on sale to car-sharing services and fleets, and will be introduced at the same time as the RAV4 EV.
Three wheels, two scissor-style doors that open like a Lamborghini, and a pod-like body made entirely of plastic are among the neatest features of the E3W (electric three-wheeler) from Austrian motorcycle maker KTM. The two-seater vehicle, set to make its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, was designed as an affordable, ultra-green option for urban commuters: The trike is equipped with a 20-horsepower engine, travels 62 miles per charge, and is slated to sell for €5,000 (about $7,250).
Developed at a German university, the Schluckspecht E is not the most practical vehicle: It travels at just 28 mph, and only seats one. But the Schluckspecht—which translates as “boozer,” “heavy drinker,” or “gobbler”—is impressive because of how far it can be driven while slowly sipping energy from its power source. In a recent test, the vehicle was driven a record-breaking 1,013 miles on a single charge.
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Volkswagen Single-Seat EV
Within a couple of weeks, Volkswagen is expected to introduce a single-seater EV that’s designed primarily for commuters, and that’ll be sold with an optional renewable power source. While details are still fuzzy, VW’s new EV could resemble the long, narrow futuristic VW L1 concept car introduced a few years ago.