New Electric Cars Power Up

With gas prices inching higher every week, and predictions of four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline in the not-too-distant future, it’s not surprising that drivers are starting to look for alternatives. Hybrids have been receiving lots of press lately, but electric cars have been making news as well.

Last month, Subaru displayed its R1e electric car (above) at the New York Auto Show, and announced that two R1e vehicles will join the New York Power Authority fleet as part of a U.S. testing program. About 40 of the electric vehicles are currently in use in Japan, and Subaru plans to test an additional 100 cars in Japan in 2009. No word yet if or when the cars will be available in U.S. showrooms.

The two-seat R1e employs the latest electric-motor technology, including a fast-charge lithium ion battery that can take quick or partial charges without a decrease in battery life. In fact, it can be charged to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes, or fully charged overnight. The R1e, which Subaru envisions as an urban car, has a range of up to 50 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 65 miles per hour.

The R1e joins a growing list of electric cars that are in various stages of development. California-based ZAP, for instance, recently announced that it expect to start selling its three-wheel Alias electric car sometime in 2009, and has started taking reservations on its website. (The company is charging a $5,000 reservation fee for the $32,500 car.) The automaker notes that the two-seater will have a range of 100 miles on a single charge, a top speed of around 100 miles per hour, and reasonably quick acceleration, jumping out from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds. It’s one of a number of electric cars, including the Xebra sedan and truck, the automaker hopes to eventually offer to car buyers.

Tesla recently started production of its electric-powered two-passenger Roadster, which will run for 220 miles on a charge, and accelerate from 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds. The entire 2008 production run has sold out, and the company is currently taking reservations for the 2009 model year. The automaker also plans to add a five-passenger sport sedan in 2010.

Finally, across the pond, U.K.-based Lightning Car Company has started taking reservations for its super-sleek, electric-powered GTS Roadster, which has a top speed of more than 130 miles per hour. A high-efficiency Hi-Pa electric drive, developed in Great Britain, powers the GTS. The powerplant also include NanoSafe batteries, which can be charged in about 10 minutes and deliver more power per unit than conventional lithium batteries, according to the automaker.

Features include an antilock braking system, traction control, regenerative braking, a satellite navigation system, and leather interior trim. You can reserve yours by visiting the automaker’s website and plunking down 15,000 pounds (just under $30,000 dollars). And may we suggest Electric Lightning Blue for the exterior color. It seems appropriate.

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