Are You Ready for the Era of the Electric Car?

With new technologies and Uncle Sam’s incentives, battery-powered autos are getting cheaper and easier to find in U.S. market.

Published: 15-Feb-2009

Automakers are racing to go electric. Within five years, they'll sell about 200,000 cars powered mainly by rechargeable batteries. By 2015, they’ll triple that number. The car won't be cheap, with sticker prices of about $5000 more than comparable gasoline models. But their ability to get 100 miles per gallon will be a head-turning sales attraction, along with the likelihood of tax breaks the Obama administration should advance either this year or next.

Toyota will be first off the starting block. By December, it's expected to field about 100 plug-ins for commercial fleets and then quickly rev up production for motorists. It's angling to leapfrog General Motors, which is touting the launch of its Chevy Volt by the end of 2010 and a plug-in Saturn Vue version soon after. Ford isn't idling, either. Next year, it will sell a small, plug-in delivery truck and in 2011, three passenger electric cars. Look for sales of plug-in vehicles to hit 4 million in 2020, accounting for more than 20% of new cars sold that year. By then, the sticker price premium likely will be less than $1,000.

Uncle Sam is a major force behind the move toward electric vehicles. Laws that are almost sure to be enacted limiting carbon dioxide emissions will give automakers little choice but to make ultrahigh mileage vehicles that will spew out less of the pollutants linked to global warming.

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