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Electric Vehicles Rev Into the Future

Sales numbers on electric vehicles were up in 2012, but lower than automakers’ projections. But the goings-on at the recent auto show suggest some hot trends on the electric front. Could this Tesla Model S (and its siblings) be a game-changer? Will electric-powered vehicles be the new thing or just another Edsel? We take a look at the landscape.

The reviews on U.S. sales numbers for plug-in electric vehicles for 2012 were mixed. The total numbers soared to their highest levels ever, but still fell short of manufacturers’ projections for the year. The lower-than-expected market penetration appears to be causing some manufacturers to pull back on the all-electric option in favor of plug-in hybrids. But the two big players in the electric vehicle market — Nissan and General Motors — appear to be doubling down on their bets.

It looks like the saga of the electric vehicle, which began way back in the 1830s, has a way to go. Let’s take a look at what might be ahead.

The Road Ahead for Hybrids and Electric Vehicles?

On January 14, the winners of the North American Car of the Year and Truck/Utility of the Year were announced at the just-finished Detroit Auto Show: the 2013 Cadillac ATS and Chrysler’s 2013 Ram 1500, respectively. Both are gas-powered. But it hasn’t been all gas, and certainly not gas guzzlers, at the show.

Perhaps in anticipation of the rising federally mandated fuel economy standards, one of the big themes of the show was fuel efficiency. (See here, here and slideshow here.)

The new CAFE standards (short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) were developed in consultation with Detroit, and it seems that the companies are in a competition to see who can get there the fastest.

And on the electric vehicle front, one of the three truck/utility finalists for Best Truck/Utility of the Year — the Ford C-Max– is a gasoline-electric hybrid.

And then there were these little electric newcomers on display:

VIA Motors XTRUX 800 horsepower electric truck,
a less expensive Nissan Leaf,
Volkswagen’s CrossBlue, a plug-in hybrid SUV prototype that uses a diesel engine and two electric motors,
Nissan’s Resonance concept, a “dramatically styled hybrid crossover”
Acura’s NSX hybrid supercar,
Cadillac ELR, electric plug-in car concept (modeled on the Chevy Volt), expected to hit the market in 2014 and
Tesla Motors’ new all-electric Model X crossover.



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