Affordable Electric Cars - Why is Europe Getting All the Goodies?

Electric EV IE phoro

The new EV IE from Electric Car Corporation - the real deal.

The EVs (electric vehicles) are coming! But not exactly to U.S. drivers. On any day in the streets of London, you might spot an electric Daimler Smartcar, a G-Whiz, or one of the Electric Car Company's cool new EV IEs. Not all these EVs are highway ready, and their drivers are dealing with that curious new concept called 'range anxiety' - e.g. you turn on the air conditioning, battery power plummets, and miles away from your destination, you really start to sweat! But as more and more of the next crop of EVs come out, prices may also surprise you. And the fact that European drivers are getting the bulk of the affordable EV goodies may infuriate you.

1) Electric Car Company EV IE...electric sleeper?
Electric Car Company's EV IE is only available in the UK at present, which is really a pity. It has a Citroën C1 body and can seat four with leg room. It fully charges in seven hours, has regenerative braking, as well as front air bags, and the company claims 75 miles between charges (just enough to qwell range anxiety for city/suburb driving). Top speed is 60 mph and the price is $26,500.

Mitsubishi i Miev photo

Photo of the i Miev via Mitsubishi.
2) Mitsubishi i Miev, the little bug that could
Mitsubishi's cute i MiEV, with a top speed of 80 mph, and a range of 60 - 100 miles, is launching in the UK this November for between $31,000 and $37,000. i Miev may look small on the outside, but it easily seats four adults, and impressed California lawmakers when it rolled into the capitol in late May. Mitsubishi has said it wants to get to the U.S. market no later than 2012, and hopes to be in mass production of the i Miev by then.

Electric Wheego Whip photo

Photo via Wheego.
1) Wheego Whip, I want one
Sure, you can't go driving cross-country in this little electric Smart car look-a-like. In fact, if you lived in LA, you probably couldn't even drive the Whip across town, as the top speed of 25 miles per hour would leave you a flattened heap on any major boulevard. But as drivers of the Zipcar have demonstrated, there are a lot of cities where that 25 mph limit is not a hindrance for getting around to do daily errands.

Whip is a two-seater with air-conditioning, power windows, locks, four-wheel disc brakes and an MP3- and iPod-ready stereo, for $19,000. One hundred customers have already ordered the Whip, which is scheduled to debut on U.S. streets this July. Even better, Wheego is working on a highway-ready sister for the Whip that will have a 100-mile range, a lithium-ion battery and will cost about $24,000.

The barriers to effective electric car ownership in the U.S. are still many - lack of charging infrastructure being the biggest. (We're also still waiting fro the promised $18,000 EVs from steel magnate Berry Bernsten.) But these cars show that there's more being developed than just the luxury Teslas and Volts. Too bad that it is European cities like London that are getting these babies first. One happy note: Portland just signed an understanding with Mitsubishi to test the i Miev and will put in a dozen charging stations to support them.

Read more on electric cars at TreeHugger
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