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The Lightning: Britain's take on electric sports cars

The all-electric sports car coming next year from England goes 0 to 60 in four seconds--and has a '60s flavor.

The Lightning GTS, an all-electric sports car coming from England next year, will go 0 to 60 in four seconds, the company says.

But what I like is the '60s styling and the Union Jack license plate.

The car is one of several relatively new entrants into the electric auto market. They can be roughly divided into three categories: sports car specialists (Tesla Motors, Lightning, Lightspeed) and the sedan makers (Zap, Miles Automotive, etc.) and economy cars (Riva, Think). Some will make cars for different categories. Established companies like Nissan, of course, are tinkering at this too.

Oh, behave! Lightning

Right now, Tesla and Think are the furthest along among the new companies in their production plans and are the best funded. Both are trying to release cars this year. Who knows what will happen with these other, smaller companies. If the early 20th century car industry is any indication, most of them will die, but a few may become successes. The one thing that many have going for them is that they are buying their batteries, perhaps the most difficult challenge in electric cars, from third-party suppliers.

Motorcycles from Zero Motorcycles and Vectrix are already out there. Not only are cycles cheaper to make, there's less crash testing. (The government assumes you will biff anyway, so why bog down marketing?)

Lightning will buy its batteries from Altair Nanotechnologies, which makes a lithium-titanate battery. Altair also sells batteries to Phoenix Motorcars, makers of an all-electric SUV. Phoenix recently had to delay its cars until next year. Altair claims that its battery chemistry makes it safer than other types of lithium ion batteries. It can also charge quickly. (Altair CEO Alan Gotcher was the one who told us to look up Lightning.)

Like the Zap-X, a sports car touted from Zap, the GTS will not have a conventional engine. Instead, it will sport Hi-Pa Drive wheel motors from PML Flightlink. The motors help the car achieve its acceleration. Just as important, hub motors take up less room, leaving more room for batteries.

The company claims that the car will go 250 miles on a charge, hit 130 miles an hour, and can be recharged in 10 minutes; 250 miles won't be easy to hit, but the 10-minute charge time could be even tougher, judging by comments from battery experts and what other electric car makers say.

The company has made petrol prototypes and hopes to have an electric one later this year. The company aims for a commercial release in 2008, although it may take a little longer to get to the U.S.

Final specs aren't available, but the final price will come to around $300,000 You can put down a deposit of 50,000 pounds now.

Uh? After you, guv'nor.