GM calls the Volt an extended-ranged electric vehicle to distinguish it from plug-in hybrid electric cars. PHEVs run primarily from an internal combustion engine, which is augmented by battery power. An extended-range electric vehicle like the Volt or the Fisker Karma is driven by the batteries. The internal combustion engine charges a generator to replenish the batteries.
Chevy Volt back
A front view of the Volt. The car’s design changed significantly from the concept car to this production version. The changes on the exterior were done to improve the aerodynamics and to ultimately improve the mileage, hitting GM’s target of 40 miles on the batteries. The internal combustion engine will extend the range to “hundreds of miles,” according to GM.
Chevy Volt front
Closer to commercialization is the Think City, an all-electric town car from Think of Norway. The vehicle will be made available in the first quarter next year in Scandinavia, with a new lithium ion battery; the company has plans to bring the car to the United States in 2009 or 2010. The range is expected to be more than 100 miles and have a top speed of 65 miles per hour. EnerDel and A123 Systems are the battery suppliers.
Think City
The Think City will have a clear glass hatchback. The European version will have a back seat, suitable for children. The U.S. version is not expected to have back seats but rather storage space.
Think City back
The battery pack for the Think City is very large, compared with the car, and fits under the seats. Even with improvements in going to lithium ion from nickel metal hydride batteries (now used in the Toyota Prius), the size and cost of batteries remains one of the biggest obstacles to adoption.
Think City battery
On the smaller scale of all-electric cars is one from Global Electric Motorcars, a Chrysler company. Auto start-ups like Tesla Motors don’t like the fact that most people’s image of electric cars is golf cars or utility vehicles. But fleets are a very good use of electric cars because the range is well-understood, and they can be charged daily.
Global Electric Motorcars
Columbia ParCar has added models to its electric utility vehicles equipped with solar panels. This cart has Kyocera solar panels that can generate 261 watts. That’s enough to get between 2,200 and 2,700 “solar miles” over the course of a year, according to a representative
Columbia ParCar

This is the “gas tank” lid on auto start-up Miles Electric’s “neighborhood sedan,” which has a top speed of only 25 miles per hour.

Its current cars have lead acid batteries, but it will be releasing a five-person, all-electric sedan in 2011, with fleet testing in 2010.

Those cars, which will look like Toyota Camrys, will drive at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour and have a range of 120 miles.


Miles Electric's gas tank
The absence of charging stations and charging standards are one of the barriers to the broader use of electric cars. Coloumb Technologies will install a network of charging stations in San Jose, Calif.

nother important piece of infrastructure required to make electric cars widespread is so-called smart-charging technology.

General Motors and smart-grid start-up GridPoint on Wednesday demonstrated an application in which a utility can remotely change the charge rate and other variables of electric cars plugged into the grid.

In this demonstration, people from GridPoint dialed into General Motors’ Volt lab in Michigan and changed the charge rate to 1,200 watts.

This sort of remote control is considered vital because it will allow utilities to even out the load on the grid and potentially avoid having to build more power plants, or bring dirty auxiliary plants online, to meet demand for electric cars.

GridPoint is also developing technology that will eventually allow utilities to draw on stand-by power stored in many cars’ batteries.


GridPoint app
Even with the U.S. automakers rushing their electric cars to market, the Toyota Prius remains the one to beat. Toyota said earlier this year that it will have a plug- in electric Prius, like this demo model, on the market in a few years. It plans to start with fleet testing in 2010.
Plug-in Prius
There are battery-powered vehicles at the opposite side of the size spectrum. Odyne makes a hybrid electric power train for large trucks. General Electric is also using massive battery packs for huge dump trucks and trains.
Odyne truck

With so much of the industry focused on all-electric or plug-in electric cars, talk of fuel cell vehicles has quieted down. That’s partly because of technology barriers–storing and producing hydrogen–and the lack of hydrogen distribution.

Still, the large car companies, including Daimler, which has a functioning fuel cell car available for leasing, are continuing their fuel cell programs.


Daimler fuel cell