Fast-forward to the present and we now have the latest wave of electric cars that hope to fare better than their predecessors. Leading the vanguard are the Nissan Leaf (right) and the Chevy Volt which came out in late 2010. Unlike the 1970s image of golf cart electric cars or the super high-end Tesla Roadster, the Leaf and Volt are full-featured, comfortable cars for everyday use. The essential invention in both is the lithium ion batteries, which are lighter and more powerful than the nickel metal hydride or lead-acid batteries in the past. Yet the Leaf and Volt have different design goals, with the all-electric Leaf offering between 75 miles and 100 miles of range. The Volt, meanwhile, was designed to go about 35 to 50 miles on electric-only range, which should cover most people's daily driving. Then its gas engine kicks in and acts like a generator to charge the batteries for longer rides.
February 6, 2012 4:00 AM PST
Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET
| Caption by: Martin LaMonica
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