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The top 10 electric cars most likely to succeed

The crystal ball is still cloudy on electric and plug-in hybrid cars. They’re still being made in limited numbers, and delivered to very specific test markets. And half the really exciting ones aren’t even here yet. Still, it’s time to make some predictions about what will succeed and what will fail in the marketplace. Here are my Top Ten leading candidates, in descending order:

1. Chevy Volt: GM’s $41,000 plug-in hybrid, soon to have a sister car in the more upscale Cadillac ELR (first seen on the auto show circuit as the Converj in 2009). GM has sold 3,200 so far, but the number doesn’t have much to do with demand — production’s been shut down as the company gears up for a capacity of 60,000 a year by 2012.

2. Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid: With an all-electric range of nine to 13 miles, after which it’s a regular Prius, this car should find a lot of fans.

3. Nissan Leaf: Some 4,000 have been sold so far in the U.S., and East Coast customers are still waiting patiently. The price is going up for 2012 — to $38,000 for the SL trim that most customers will want.

4. Tesla Model S: Due next year, this $49,990 electric sedan is half the price of the exotic Roadster, but it has far more utility. On the same platform, Tesla will also offer a Model X crossover that should sell really well.
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