6 New Developments in the World of Electric Cars

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American drivers will soon be able to buy—or share—a wider variety of cars that require little or no gasoline to operate. Here, a half-dozen noteworthy developments for everyone curious about the rise of electric vehicles.
Chevy Volt’s been very successful … at selling the Chevy Cruze. Fortune reports that in the same way drivers have been drawn to Chevy dealers to check out the latest Corvette, only to wind up buying the less expensive Camaro, loads of curious shoppers have been flooding in to get a look at the gas-electric hybrid Volt—but drive away with a Cruze or Malibu. The Volt and the Cruze have similar appearances, and both can claim to get good gas mileage, but while the Cruze Eco boasts 42 mpg on the highway, the Volt can’t be beat with upwards of 125 mpg. On the other hand, the Cruze starts at a bit over $16K, the Volt at $41K, which could be a reason why the Cruze is by far outselling the Volt.

(MORE: Huh? Brand-New Chevy Volts Costs Thousands Less Than ‘Pre-Owned’ Models)

Toyota will sell electric cars next year—not a puny hatchback but a mini SUV. After rumors surfaced that Toyota’s all-electric compact SUV, the 2012 RAV4 EV, would only be available via car sharing programs, the carmarker announced that the battery-powered, larger electric alternative to the Volt and Nissan Leaf would, in fact, be sold to the general public in 2012. When, exactly, and for how much? That info hasn’t been released yet.

Rolls-Royce (!) has introduced an electric vehicle of its own. Instead of the V12, 17-mpg engine powering your standard $380K Rolls-Royce Phantom, the latest Rolls, the 102EX, uses two all-electric motors that combine for the equivalent of 388 horsepower and can be driven a bit over 100 miles on a full charge. Will the potential savings in gas make the 102EX a sensible purchase? Not a chance.

Nissan increases availability, features—and price—of the Leaf. The base price of the Nissan Leaf is rising $2,420 (up to $36,200) for the 2012 model. The 2012 Leaf will also have new standard features, including battery warmers and heated seats, and they’ll be newly available for sale in several parts of the country—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C.—in addition to the states where it can already be purchased (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas Washington).

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An all-electric car sharing service is being launched. Car2Go, which loans Smart cars to members in Austin and Vancouver, among other places, is launching the first-ever all-electric car sharing operation in San Diego. A fleet of all-electric Smart cars, each with a driving range of 84 miles per charge, will be available for members of the car-sharing service by the end of 2011.

An “electric highway” is coming to the Pacific Northwest. A series of fast-charging stations is being installed every 40 to 60 miles in Washington along I-5 and U.S. Rte. 2, creating what will be the first EV highway in the country. While the time to recharge an electric vehicle varies widely depending on the charger and the car, the combo of the fastest charger and the most high-tech vehicle (Nissan Leaf Level 3) would mean a full recharge could occur in 30 minutes all along the EV highway. In related news, I now can’t get the Eddy Grant classic “Electric Avenue” out of my head.

(MORE: Who Cares What the Experts Say, We’re Buying a Jetta)

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.