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The great electric car race of 2010

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Leaf waiting lists have sprouted at a few dealers. Although the price has not been announced, it is expected to be well under $30,000 – perhaps in the $27,000 range, one dealer suggests. A final price is expected this spring.

"We've got about 30 names on our list already," says Jim Bone, sales manager at Nissan of Santa Rosa, Calif., one of the first dealers to offer a wait list. "In June we'll ask for a deposit, probably about $1,000."

With several competitors waiting in the wings, plug-ins were the focus of this year's Detroit Auto Show. Twenty vehicles lined the convention's "Electric Avenue," where promoters hyped watts instead of gallons.

The $87,000 Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), is a 150-mile-per-hour sports car. It already has a backlog of hundreds of orders; production is expected to begin this spring or summer. Forecasts suggest sales of up to 15,000 next year.

German automaker Daimler has said it hopes to sell its Smart ED, an all-electric battery-powered vehicle later in the year. So does BYD Auto, a Chinese entrant that plans to begin selling its four-door passenger e6 all-electric vehicle, reports Plug In America. Coda Automotive intends to join the crowd selling a Chinese-made passenger car initially in California.

"It will really be 2011 before the rest of the country starts seeing these and many other types of electric-drive vehicles," concedes Paul Scott, vice president of Plug In America in California. "But this is a major first step."

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