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Electric cars: 'Plug-ins' look for spark in 2012

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So far, seven plug-in models are for sale: the two from Chevrolet and Nissan and other less widely available models from Mitsubishi, Daimler, BMW, and others. But new models will be hitting showrooms soon, according to the PluginCars.com website. Ford is rolling out its Focus EV; Toyota, its Plug-in Hybrid Prius and, later this year, its RAV4 EV. Volvo is offering a V70 PHEV station wagon; Honda, its popular Fit as an EV; and Daimler, its distinctive two-seater Smart as an EV; to name just a few.

Automakers have projected US sales of about 100,000 electric vehicles this year. But several analysts say it will probably reach only about two-thirds of that level, deflating an electric vehicle "hype bubble" so big it was bound to burst.

"It will be more of a slow ramp-up in sales of electric vehicles in the US, not explosive growth," says Kevin See, lead EV analyst at Lux Research, a Boston-based market research firm. "It's not that consumers don't want them – it's just that the cost of these vehicles is still so much higher than comparably equipped gaso-line vehicles – even with [federal] tax incentives."

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