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Nissan Denki Concept Electric Car
Nissan introduced the Denki Cube concept electric car at the New York Auto Show in 2008, while also announcing that it would offer an all-electric car for sale in North America in 2012. Nissan and its French ally, Renault are codeveloping an electric car for Project Better Place that will be sold in Israel and Denmark initially.

Electric Cars: The Immediate Years Ahead

You can't kick the tire on an electric car at your local dealer, but that's about to change

By Bill Moore

It took a war, a movie and $100 a barrel oil to bring back the electric car.

Not that you can walk down to your local car dealership and buy one, much less kick its tire, but that day may not be far off.

Once a competitive option a century ago, electric vehicles or EVs, found themselves eclipsed by models powered by gasoline that offered greater driving range. Awash in cheap Texas crude, Americans gradually found themselves pulled ever-deeper into their 100-year-long relationship with the motorcar and the freedom it promised.

But that was half-a-century and thousands of brimming oil fields ago.

Now concerns over national security, climate change and global resource competition are spurring a revival of interest in cars that run on electricity instead of petroleum. While the number of energy sources that can power an internal combustion engine are limited, essentially, to petroleum and biofuels, an electric car can be charged from myriad sources -- both centralized and decentralized -- including fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewables: themselves spanning the gamut from hydropower to geothermal to wind and solar.

General Motors CEO and President Rick Wagoner has begun, of late, to extol the virtues of the electric car as a way to remove the automobile from the "environmental equation." The company that "killed the electric car" -- as charged in the successful Chris Paine documentary -- has done a 180 degree turn and launched its biggest gamble; the development of an extended range electric car called the Volt, due out sometime in the 2010 time frame.

And GM is not alone. Virtually all of the major and mid-tier carmakers have electric car programs in development, with most slated to begin appearing in showrooms in the next several years. But here is what you can expect to find in the next year or two.

Quasi-Production EVs

While GM burns the midnight oil preparing the Volt to meet a self-imposed 2010 launch date, there are a handful of production electric cars available -- for order, not necessarily delivery -- today if you have the financial wherewithal.

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