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10 Modern Electric Cars You May or May Not Know About

Updated on March 3, 2011
And you thought all electric cars were fugly golf carts?
And you thought all electric cars were fugly golf carts?

Did you know about these?

By now, you've heard of the Nissan Leaf electric car, and the Chevy Volt sort-of, kinda electric Volt. But did you know that Toyota will have an all-electric SUV next year? Have you heard of the THINK City, on sale in an Indiana near you? Did you know about Coda, the aggressive little upstart? Find out about these electric cars and more.

Tesla Model S - coming 2012
Tesla Model S - coming 2012

The Tesla Model S

Tesla, the upstart electric car company that brought you the $120,000 Roadster, is busy building the factory now to make this beauty. Tesla Motors, founded in 2008 by Elon Musk (eBay founder), will be selling this Model S for about $49,000 or so. The car will seat 5 adults and get north of 300 miles per charge. It powers to 60 miles per hour in a screaming 5.6 seconds. Best part? You can fill 'er up in about 45 minutes.

This one is more in my budget range.
This one is more in my budget range.

The Coda

After a couple of false starts, it looks like this family sedan will hit the road sometime in the fall of 2011. A modest family sedan from a brand-new company in California, it gets about 120 miles per charge. Unlike its major competitor, the Nissan Leaf, that range won't change with the weather because the battery is engineered with a climate-control system that keeps it mostly-toasty, no matter the temp outside. Base price: $37,400. Not cheap, but then, with the price of gas these days, what is?

I still need good friends with pickups.
I still need good friends with pickups.

The smart electric

People have a love-hate relationship with the gasoline-powered smart car. For one thing, it's not exactly something that appeals to the SUV set. For the greenie, its gas mileage is nothing to write home about. Maybe that's why only 2500 of these things sold in the USA last year. So Mercedes Benz, the owner of the smart brand, is betting big on this new electric weenie. It's the perfect car for the urban apartment-dwelling earth hugger. Or for me, because I rent apartments in my house and I'd love to have more parking. Just slide this into my yard and leave the driveway for the tenants. But please, don't ask me to help you get that mattress home. Base price: only available to lease for $599 per month.

The Ford Focus Electric

Jay Leno likes his, as you can see in that video. If I had the money to purchase a new vehicle, this is probably the electric I would go with. Where Nissan bet the farm on their all-new Leaf, Ford has taken a measured approach to electrification. This car will be produced on the same line as the gasoline Focus, so I'm betting Focus Electric 1.0 will have most of the bugs worked out of it before it hits the road late 2011. Like the Coda, it has a thermal management system to keep the battery comfy in all weathers, so the 120-mile range is likely to be firm. Also, it charges pretty fast - 4 hours at 220 volts. Same internal space as the normal Focus. I likey.


Range Rover Electric

You know the electric-car revolution is for real when even a conspicuous gasburner like Range Rover comes out with an electric. Hummer will be the last holdout for true petroheads. This vehicle, which is something along the lines of a Chevrolet Volt, is more of a series hybrid than a true electric. Still, I included it here because it's a radical departure for Range Rover. It should be able to go 20 miles on per electric before the diesel engine kicks in, and then get about 85 miles per gallon thereafter. Of course, we all remember the infamous "350 miles per gallon" smiley face for the Volt, so I'll take that with a grain of salt till I see this on the road. Available: To be announced. Price: To be announced. Probably a lot.

Come on, Mitsubishi.  Can't you do better than that?
Come on, Mitsubishi. Can't you do better than that?

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Like me, you probably don't even know how to pronounce that one. And yes, this car is pretty much everything that people hate about electric cars - small, slow, golf-car fugly, and limited range. But it's another electric car from a major automaker, and that makes it good in my list. Range: about 75 miles. Top speed: 80 miles per hour. Price: to be announced in the USA, but somewhere in the low 30's. This car has been selling well in Japan and Australia, so perhaps it is better up close. One note though: Don't let the size fool you. This car is very safe. Check that video and prepare to be amazed.

This is not the first RAV4-EV.  Toyota made about 1200 of them back in the 1990s, but like GM and the EV-1, they scotched the program.  Some 700 remain on the road today.
This is not the first RAV4-EV. Toyota made about 1200 of them back in the 1990s, but like GM and the EV-1, they scotched the program. Some 700 remain on the road today.

Toyota RAV4 EV

What is it with these Japanese companies and their weird names? Toyota formed a partnership with Tesla to make this new RAV4 happen. It's expected to be on the road late in 2012, but with Tesla's track record of making things happen, that date may be scootched up a bit. In fact, Toyota was publicly amazed at how fast Tesla got the prototype to them - about three weeks. This one ought to sell well. It boasts about 100 mile range, four-hour charge time, lots of space, and a top speed of 95. Go, Tesla! Uh . . . Toyota. Whatever.

This is the THINK City - the perfect urban car for anyone in Indiana.
This is the THINK City - the perfect urban car for anyone in Indiana. | Source

THINK Electric

This car has actually been on the road for some time in Europe. In fact, Ford Motor Company bought them out and owned them for several years. Now they've gone private again, and they are building cars in Elkhart, Indiana. After a couple minor hiccups, they appear to be selling well. (A rep there told me they're only selling it in Indiana for now. Too bad.) I'd like this car for the same reason I might like the smart electric. It's actually better in some respects: It uses a sodium-nickel battery, which is a more mature technology. Think is working on a lithium-ion version, but the current one allows for 100 or so miles of range, a top speed near 70, and lots of cool toys in the cabin. Available with 2 seats or 4. Price: $34,000. On sale now in an Indiana near you.

Hey, we might not have a car to sell yet, but look here!  We found a pretty girl to show!
Hey, we might not have a car to sell yet, but look here! We found a pretty girl to show!

BYD e6

Some people freak out because BYD is a Chinese car company. I say bring it on. If anyone can make an electric car cheap enough for me to buy, the Chinese can. This car has faced a bumpy road on its way to the United States. First it was a pure electric, then it was a series hybrid like the Volt. Then it was going to go into production, then it wasn't. When they finally built a few, no one wanted them. Today, and no doubt with a kick in the butt from from Warren Buffet, Build Your Dreams looks like it should have the car on our natal shores sometime this year. Unless something else happens, of course. Price, range, and other details change constantly, so I'll hold judgment on this one till I see it for myself. It's skittering close to the edge of vaporware at the moment.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

This car, first of all, will never park in my driveway. But it sure is cool. You don't even have to plug it in, because it charges wirelessly. And shameless as ever, Rolls-Royce has put the largest automotive battery ever developed into this marvel. You can go about 160 miles in this thing before rolling it back to the charging pad. Rolls-Royce is downpeddling it for now (see video), maintaining that then vehicle just "experimental," and that they are only releasing it to provoke "thoughtful discussion" and gauge interest. All of which sounds like a certain politician who "will never run for President" but has formed an exploratory committee and PAC "just in case." Come on, Rolls-Royce. You can do it. Sell this baby!


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    • profile image

      Mitsubishi I-MiEV 

      7 years ago

      For all the newest info on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Canada - check

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting article that takes what is a dry, highly technical subject for some and makes it witty, engaging and very accessible. I want an electric car more than ever now. Would Smart electric like to donate one to me?


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