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USA: Electric cars bounce back

NEW YORK – Just when it looked like electric cars were running out of juice, the return of $4-a-gallon gasoline is generating new life for battery-powered vehicles.

Electric-drive vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in models and pure battery-powered cars, were the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. auto market in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales of those models rose 49 percent to 117,182 vehicles in the first quarter, from 78,527 a year earlier before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami pinched output.

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