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Electric cars: ‘Plug-ins’ look for spark in 2012

Automakers in 2012 will launch 13 plug-in vehicles, running on electricity alone all or most of the time. This is the year that will tell whether the electric car market has a roaring liftoff or a slow-rolling start, analysts say.

By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / February 6, 2012

People pose for photos at an electric-vehicle charging station at the dedication of Electric Avenue on the Portland State University campus in Portland, Ore., last August.

Don Ryan/AP/File
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It’s early yet, but 2012 is shaping up as a white-knuckle Year 2 for the makers of new “plug-in” vehicles, who have wagered billions that the appeal of new electric-drive technologies will surmount hurdles not only from a weak-as-a-kitten economy, but also from high sticker prices and a spate of unfavorable publicity.

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No fewer than 11 automakers are launching 13 plug-in vehicles in all, ranging from tiny urban runabouts to sports cars and even station wagons . All will run on electricity alone for all or most of the time. Are consumers ready to plug into a garage charger or one at the local shopping mall if their car batteries are running low?

Nobody knows. It’s a bold push toward an electric-drive world-without-oil – or at least a lot less oil. But this year will tell, analysts say, whether the launch is a roaring liftoff – or a slow-rolling start – for plug-ins.

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