PHOTO CAPTION: Nissan LEAF is only electric car currently priced close to comparable non-electric models.

The $40,000 Question

USA Today asks will the masses embrace electric cars despite their high prices?

Published: 08-Nov-2010

The biggest automotive revolution since horseless carriages first rumbled along rutted roads is about to take place -- and you'll have to strain to hear it.
That's because the first mainstream electric cars in nearly a century will be hitting the streets over the next couple of months, and their electric motors are as eerily quiet as they are tailpipe-emission-free.

Automakers such as Nissan and Chevrolet are touting the new vehicles in splashy ads, but already there are signs that wary mainstream consumers won't be quick to embrace the largely untested electric models. Automakers likely will have no trouble selling out their initial, limited production to electric enthusiasts and early adopters who have to have the latest thing, but mass acceptance that would lead to profitable production in big numbers remains a question.

The government and the auto industry are promoting electric transportation as a way to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, ease the need for more U.S. oil drilling and cut carbon dioxide in the air. But the technology remains a colossal gamble, with billions invested by the industry and billions in subsidies from the government for research, factories and a direct-to-consumer rebate of $7,500 to partially offset the higher price of electrics.


TREV two-place electric car

Student-built vehicle can do 0-60 in 10 seconds with top speed of 75 mph. Photo courtesy of University of South Australia.

Arcimotor plans to sell the vehicle for under $20,000.

The all-electric prototype took two years and $100,000 to build and has range of 50 miles.

Wheego Whip sells for $20,000 and is classified as a low-speed electric vehicle.

Robert Siegel takes Chinese-made SmartCar look-alike for test spin.


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