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The return of the RAV4 EV

You know electric vehicles are being designed for the mainstream when the RAV4 EV is coming back. Toyota and Tesla Motors on Friday announced plans to make the electric RAV4. Toyota made the all-electric SUVs from 1997 to 2003. Since then, the RAV4 EV has been highly sought-after by electric-vehicle enthusiasts. It has a range of about 100 miles.

For the reborn RAV4 EV, Tesla will supply an electric powertrain. The companies plan to bring the car to the U.S. in 2012.

Caption:Photo:<a href="">Mike Weston</a>
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Nissan Leaf all electric

The Nissan Leaf can go about 100 miles (although less in very hot or very cold weather) and it's about the same size as typical compact car. The car will have a few charging options, including a high-speed DC port for commercial charging spots that can charge the car in about half an hour. Otherwise, full charging will take either 16 to 18 hours with a regular 120-volt outlet, or about 8 hours with 240-volt charger. Price is about $33,000 but rebates and incentives can bring that closer to $25,000. It will only be made available next year in certain areas in the U.S. which are investing in charging infrastructure.

See CNET's Brian Cooley's video review of the Leaf.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET
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Long-awaited GM Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt's claim to fame in the electric-auto world is that it's an extended-range electric vehicle. That means that it will drive 40 miles on its batteries and then its gasoline engine will fuel a generator to keep the batteries charged, allowing for longer range than its all-electric competitors. Final pricing has not been announced but it's expected to be in the $40,000 range before rebates and incentives.

Will the Volt alone return GM to auto dominance? That's unlikely. The car has generated a huge amount of buzz around GM and the underlying electric powertrain technology can be used on other GM models. But initial volumes of the Volt are relatively low, which means GM's near-term finances are tied more to the rest of its fleet. The company plans to have nationwide availability of the car within 12 months of its launch later this year.

Updated:Caption:Photo:General Motors
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Battery-powered Ford Focus

Ford is another incumbent automaker that is jumping into electrification, but it's taking a slightly different tack. Rather than have a specific electric model, it is making electric versions of some of its vehicles, including the Transit Connect utility van and the Ford Focus.

The driving range is projected to be about 100 miles and it's slated to go on sale in 2011. Ford hasn't disclosed the price.

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Plug-in hybrid Prius

In announcing the partnership between Tesla and Toyota, Toyota indicated that it wanted to move faster on electric vehicles. Until now, it has been relatively conservative on expectations regarding consumer interest, saying that plug-in hybrids are more affordable. Before announcing the return of the electric RAV4 with Tesla, Toyota already had plans to introduce a plug-in version of the Prius, due this year for fleet owners. It also has an electric mini car under development.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Waiting on the Model S

Tesla Motors' Model S is still years away from hitting the streets but it's already one of the most coveted electric vehicles. The sleek sedan, which will have a list price of $57,400 before rebates, will seat at least five and have lots of cargo room, Tesla says. The company plans to sell models with different sized batteries, allowing up to 300 miles of range. The Model S, which Tesla plans to start making in 2012, will also serve as a platform for other electric cars, including a crossover SUV, cabriolet, and a van.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Tesla Motors
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Sleek Fisker Karma

Fisker Automotive has a plug-in electric vehicle that also uses a gasoline engine to extend range. The high-end Karma, expected to be priced around $88,000, will go about 50 miles on its battery charge before the gasoline-powered generator kicks in. The company says the Karma, which was originally planned for release at the end of last year, is due in at the end of this year in limited numbers. The company says the combination will allow people to get over 100 miles per gallon.

Fisker's next project is the Nina, a more affordable gas-electric car that it plans to manufacture in the U.S.

Updated:Caption:Photo:CNET Networks
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BMW's MiniE

BMW started leasing the Mini-E last year to drivers in the U.S., who found that driving distance for the two-seater ranged from 75 miles in very cold weather to about 100 miles. The company first leased the car for $850 a month and recommended drivers get a 240-volt home charger to cut charge time. A production version is expected next year.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

Daimler later this year will start testing an electric drive version of its Smart ForTwo city car, mostly to fleet operators. The company is going after a niche market of city drivers who want a small car as much for what it does as what it says. The electric version smooths out the transmission of the gasoline ForTwo and runs entirely on batteries. Expected range is about 80 miles and top speed is about 65 miles per hour. After its pilot test this year in the U.S., Daimler plans to make the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive available in late 2012 as a 2013 car model.

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Think City coming to U.S. cities

Another electric vehicle in the small-car category is the Think City, made by a Norweigan company which was once owned by Ford. This is an all-electric car that can go about 100 miles and has a top speed of about 60 miles per hour. The company started making a two-seat version for European customers last year and plans to start making them in the U.S. in certain markets, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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Mitsubishi iMiev coming to U.S.

Yet another challenger in the small all-electric car field is the iMiev from Mitsubishi. The car is already sold and being used by fleet owners in Japan, with plans to come to the U.S. in 2011. The driving range on this car is expected to be about 75 miles and the cost less than $35,000 before rebates.

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Coda coming to California

California drivers at the end of this year can order the Coda all-electric sedan, which will have a driving range between 90 and 130 miles and cost about $35,000 before rebates. The battery system and powertrain were designed by California-based Coda and the chassis and batteries are being made in China. After California, the Coda will be made available in other states in 2012.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Martin LaMonica/CNET
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BYD - a dark horse in EV race

Chinese company BYD, which has its roots in battery manufacturing for electronics, is coming to the U.S. with its e6 all-electric sedan. Exact details on range and price are still unclear but company executives have said the sedan can go 200 miles on its batteries and that its battery costs are lower than the competition. Initially, BYD plans to make the electric sedans available to fleet owners.

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