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Latest electric cars are loaded with luxury

By Dan Carney, msnbc.com contributor

The next round of the electric car saga promises to be more interesting, or at least, more comfortable, as the Infiniti LE, Cadillac ELR and BMW ActiveE cars arrive in showrooms over the next year or two.

These primo EVs are important because it turns out there are not multitudes of would-be planet-savers desperate to shell out $40,000 for an electric economy car. Sure, there are tax discounts and the like that can take a bite out of that price tag, but the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf cost about twice as much as the Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Versa upon which they are based.

It is an unlikely financial calculation for budget-minded, economy-car shoppers to choose electric power over gas at today’s prices. But luxury car buyers don’t make their purchase decision based on financial considerations. Green-eyeshade calculations dictate that we all buy off-lease late-model used Honda Civics. Dull silver ones. Where’s the fun in that?

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But luxury shoppers are used to laying out big bucks for cars just because they like them. That is why people buy Porsche Boxsters, and not because Consumer Reports calculated that the Boxster has a great return on investment.

Electric cars cannot compete financially with gas cars today. But they do possess a unique appeal, with smooth, quiet and surprisingly powerful acceleration that is perfectly suited to the characteristics of a refined luxury car. Plus there’s the whole no-gas thing.
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