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Plug a Leaf into history

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All- or mostly-electric vehicles are coming soon to a charging station or electric outlet near you.

Not only is the gas-free option arriving, there are some interesting and attractive choices hitting the road.

My favorite (for what that’s worth) is the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which will make its market debut this year as will the Chevy Volt. Meanwhile, the Ford Focus EV is slated to roll late next year and BMW reportedly is working on a small electric car that might launch in 2012.

“It seems that the era of the electric vehicle is finally upon us,” Esurance said in a recent blog post on the “Top 5.1 Things You Don’t Know About the Electric Car (But Should).”

The post itself is fairly basic on how EVs work, their costs, driving-range and savings. For example, if you’re not shopping for the Tesla Roadster at $110,000 per unit the coming crop of EVs will sell for about $28,000 to $35,000 making them affordable for most. And that’s before the $7,500 federal tax credit that’s available if an EV is purchased before the end of 2011. Additional credits are available depending on the state and urban areas where you reside. In California, for example you’ll get an additional income tax credit of $5,000 and in my state of Washington you’ll get an exemption from the state’s sales tax. Those are pretty powerful financial incentives to do the right thing for the environment.

The range discussion for EVs has been thoroughly flogged, but let’s face it, these are urban/suburban-type vehicles. Their range on a single charge is about 100 miles. For the vast majority of drivers that’s plenty; if you’re motoring more than 100 miles a day or driving cross-country on a regular basis, then EVs obviously are not the option (and Big Oil is thanking you profusely). But for trips to the supermarket or soccer practice they are perfect at about a charging-cost equivalent of 75 cents a gallon.

In addition to the huge fuel cost savings over the life of an EV, they are 100 percent emission-free and 97 percent cleaner than gas-powered vehicles, according to Esurance. Isn’t that the main point?

Even Motor Trend, a bastion for the high-horsepower, tire-squealing internal combustion engine set, is taking notice of the EV. Its October issue has a highly laudatory four-page spread that’s really charged up about the Leaf. “This is a real watershed moment,” the article begins. “Rarely in autodom does a ‘new car’ like the 2011 Nissan Leaf come along that makes us stop and think about our current mode of transportation. By new, we don’t just mean the successor to a current model. We mean brand new as in a totally new – and silent – way of thinking about getting from point A to B.”

The made-in-America Leaf is a five-seat, five-door car that’s the first purpose-built, mass-produced all-electric car. It meets all highway safety regulations. Interest in the Leaf has been so overwhelming that Nissan stopped taking reservations for the initial production run.

The Leaf’s launch, Motor Trend continued, “Could very well serve as a defining moment in automotive history, a keystone toward building a no-emissions future.”

Time to get in on history? I’m in, once I scape together the necessary juice for a car that runs on juice.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

21 October, 2010 at 2:00 am

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