2010. For plug-in vehicles advocates, this is the year of many, many promises. As of today, there are only around 3,000 highway-capable electric vehicles from major automakers on U.S. roads. By this time 12 months from now, there should be many thousands more. Someday, we're pretty sure, plug-in cars will be as common as after-Christmas sales on December 27th, but for now we've culled a list of the cars that automakers have either announced will be making their market debut in 2010 somewhere in the world or, in some cases, will take a big step towards production status this year. In short, these are the cars that will make 2010 Year One of the new electric car era. We hope.
Follow the jump to check it out and let us know of your additions in the comments.
Aptera 2eAptera ended the year plagued with difficulties, but we're still dying to see these aerodynamic three-wheelers make it to the street in the hands of regular customers before too long. These are genre-defying rides, with their unique shape and all-electric propulsion system The passion that people already feel for this car means it wouldn't be all that crazy for the Aptera 2e to become a Prius for the early 21st century, where everyone knows what the car stands for – hyper-efficient mobility – even if they don't drive one (or like it).
Myers Motors DuoWith a top speed of 75 mph, a 60-mile range and a sticker price that could be as low as $22,495.50, there's a lot of potential in the new two-seat model from Myers Motors. Of course, with three wheels and a decidedly unusual shape coming from a relatively unknown automaker, the car also has a lot of hurdles to overcome to gain a lot of sales. We like the way the single-seat NMG drives, and expect the two-seater to also offer a similarly zippy ride. Whether or not the car does enter production in the fourth quarter of 2010, as Myers Motors president Dana Myers has promised, will be something we'll be watching closely this year.
Mitsubishi i-MiEVMitsubishi has been testing and selling the i-MiEV for a while, but 2010 is the year when the all-electric jellybean really takes off. Japanese buyers have been able to get one for months, and Europe is next on the list. Unfortunately, it's unclear when (or if) the U.S. will get a chance at the car, since exactly which EV Mitsubishi will bring here in 2011 hasn't been decided yet. In this category, we're also waiting for the Smart Ed, and Daimler is well along the path to production with that car – second-gen Smart Ed production kicked off in November – but the i-MiEV gets the nod on our list. Small, city-sensible electric vehicles are coming, but we'd like to see them available in more places sooner rather than later.
Coda SedanThe Coda Sedan takes the futuristic power of an advanced all-electric powertrain and puts it in a car that looks like it could be straight out of 1995 (except for the grille-less hood). In a lot of ways, this is exactly what a mainstream EV should be: fairly normal looks, sensible price and solid but not outstanding performance. All with zero tailpipe emissions. The 0-60 speed is around 11 seconds, for example, but the immediate torque from the electric motor makes the prototype feel more aggressive than that sounds. Throw in a top speed of 80 mph and a range of 100 to 120 miles and you've got an appealing alternative vehicle here, especially with a targeted sales price of under $30,000 in California (after state and federal rebates). The first 2,000 units of the Coda sedan should make its way into customer and fleet hands in late 2010, with 20,000 more scheduled for 2011.
BYD e6There are a lot of questions surrounding BYD's E6, but they should be answered once the car becomes available sometime in 2010. The E6 is supposed to go on sale in China in the early part of this year, with exports to places like the U.S. and Spain scheduled to follow after that. The questions result from BYD's history, including dismal sales figures for the company's plug-in hybrid F3DM and a moving target release date to bring the E6 to the U.S. We were supposed to get it in 2010, but now it's looking like 2011 at the earliest. Still, whatever happens in China this year will help us figure out if we should be impatiently waiting for the E6 again 12 months from now.
Think CityLike Aptera, 2009 was not the smoothest of years for Think, but it was an improvement over 2008. The company managed to get through bankruptcy, and needed to move production from Norway to Finland. But, as 2009 drew to a close, things started to look up, and the first of 2,300 outstanding orders City electric vehicle were fulfilled after production started up in November. Now that things are in place in Europe – Think's partner Valmet hopes to build around 4,600 City vehicles in 2010 – U.S. expansion is starting to look more realistic. The news we're hearing from Elkhart County, Indiana makes it look like that's where the electric car will be produced some day. Sadly, it might be 2013 when that day finally arrives. Until then, we'll be envious of our European friends.
Toyota's expanded test program with this plugged-in version of its iconic hybrid will see around 500 prototypes enter test fleets soon, and these fleet tests tell us that things are still in motion at Toyota. But is the company moving too slowly? Real production of a PHEV Prius won't take place until 2012, and it's no big secret that the plug-in wars will be well-joined by then. Still, the Honda Insight was the first modern hybrid to market back in 1999, but that didn't transfer into Honda dominating the hybrid space. We know the PHEV Prius will be a serious contender once it becomes widely available a few years from now; we're just wondering what's taking so long.
Fisker KarmaBeautiful styling, sexy PHEV technology, solid automotive DNA. The Fisker Karma has got a lot going for it at the start of 2010. Of course, with only nine months left between now and when the first examples are supposed to hit the showrooms, there's one step we really wish Fisker would have taken by now: letting someone who's not royalty get behind the wheel. We've been trying to get behind the wheel for what seems like ages now – and we're not the only ones – but so far, no dice. Sure, there was that lap around Laguna Seca, but it'd be really nice to have some test drive reports, even early ones, by this time. Fisker has already delayed the introduction of the Karma, and it'll be a real shame to see 2010 come and go without customers getting their hands on one of these. A test drive would go a long way towards calming our worries and impatience. Fisker, you know how to get a hold of us.
Nissan LeafThe Nissan Leaf will be a game-changer. It is the first fully-electric car from a major automaker that will be sold to the American public (batteries leased) with a sticker price that is comparable to petroleum-powered vehicles. Whether this will be a game that many people will want to play is yet to be determined, but Nissan's strategy to target the EVangelists with the first-generation model and then slowly, over ten years, creep up to 5+ percent of the overall market makes a lot of sense. An electric car that can go 100 miles per charge, seats four and looks good – we're serious here – explains why excitement for the Leaf has been high since it was introduced. Considering all we've learned since then, we expect big things from this car in 2010.
Chevy VoltEven with all of the other great plug-in contenders on this list, we aren't waiting for any car in quite the same way we've been waiting for the Chevy Volt. No car has gotten anything close to the same level of scrutiny, hype and attention as the Volt – with good reason. There's a compelling story here – clean green car sets out to save a country ... and the world – and some damn fine engineering. GM is betting big with the plug-in Volt, and we're getting closer and closer to the day where we can find out if it's all been worth it.
Not everyone who is interested in a Volt is going to buy one in 2010. For some, the $35,000 (estimated) price will be too high. For others, the 40 mile electric-only range won't be good enough. For many, though, it simply won't be available. After years of preparation and time in the media spotlight, GM will use a careful roll-out plan to bring the first Volts to market. By the end of 2011, we hope, everyone who's interested will be able to go down to the local dealer and buy one, but Job One is coming in November – and the next 10 months will be long indeed.