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The great electric car race of 2010

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"By the end of this year we will see the first few models on honest-to-goodness American driveways and roadways," says Bradley Berman, editor of Hybridcars.com. "This is the last year that it's a lot more talk than actual product in the marketplace."

By November, and perhaps as soon as September, the Chevy Volt – an electric passenger car that goes 40 miles on a charge before a range-extending gas engine kicks in – will appear in dealer showrooms. It may also cost less than the $40,000 many had expected, General Motors officials hinted at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month. But it will be available only in California and Michigan and maybe a few other locations.

The Nissan Leaf, an electric-drive all-battery-powered vehicle, will go up to 100 miles before needing overnight recharging. About 5,000 to 10,000 Leafs will be available by December, Nissan says.

The Leaf will debut in Washington State, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Tennessee, where it is being manufactured, according to Plug In America, an advocacy group that tracks vehicle development.

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