The Electric Car Race Heats Up
CNBC Auto and Airline Industry Reporter
They've been jockeying for position for some time. But this morning, auto makers around the world will take big steps in the race to build mass market electric cars. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu announces grants for the development of fuel efficient vehiclesand technologies, Ford, Nissan and Tesla will be the immediate beneficiaries.
Each company is getting a chunk of the $25 Billion Congress has set aside for the Department of Energy to allocate for developing greener vehicles in the future. Keep in mind, greener does not necessarily mean electric cars only. But it is clear, the White House wants the auto industry to rev up development of electric cars. So far, 75 auto industry firms have applied for DOE money.
So which auto makers are leading the electric car race.
Tesla: The California based companyturned heads couple of years ago with it's Tesla Roadster. As impressive as the Roadster is, the Tesla's upcoming Model S is far more important because it's more of a mass market model with an expected price tag of $57,400. Tesla says the Model S will be on sale by the third quarter of 2011. With Tesla already having a loyal following of supporters, look for the Model S to do well right off the bat.
Ford: The auto maker plans to have a yet to be named electric car in showrooms by 2011. I've driven a modified Focus packed with the technology that will go into Ford's new electric car. It's performance was impressive during a very short test drive.
Nissan: CEO Carlos Ghosn says Nissan will sell an electric car in the U.S. by 2010. It's been letting reporters test out the technology behind that future vehicle and it's generating some positive buzz. CEO Ghosn says Nissan's electric car, with a range of up to 100 miles, will be built at the company's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
GM: The Chevy Volt comes out in 2010 and it has received plenty of attention. GM has done a good job of trying to generate buzz with the Volt, but it's estimated price tag of $40,000 has some wondering how successful the Volt will be. Nonetheless, GM wants to be first with an electric car and hopes the Volt will do for GM what the Prius has done for Toyota.
Toyota: While others have made a big deal about their electric car plans, Toyota has been relatively low-key. It has shown a small car proto-type and says it will have an electric car for urban areas out in showrooms by 2012. Toyota's cautious approach to talking about electric car plans should not be taken as a sign the company is not working hard on the next generation green car.
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Chrysler: The company has shown a number of reporters, including me, an array of electric car proto-types. These cars have technology new owner Fiat will develop as quickly as possible. But keep in mind, this is a company with a whole host of issues it needs to fix. So be patient waiting for Chrysler to roll out an electric car.
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