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The Great Electric Car Race: Volt, Leaf, ...

Minutes after GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced the new Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon, a friend of mine in the auto industry nudged me and said, "Get ready. The great electric car race is just beginning."

He's right. While the Volt is getting huge amounts of attention here in the U.S., the Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf
Source: nissanusa.com
The Nissan Leaf

got just as much last week in Japan.

The Leaf is pure electric, with no gas engine to assist the electric motor. It's range is 100 miles, about a third of what the Volt is projected to get. But when Nissan plugged the Leaf's data into a formula for electric vehicles, the company calculated the car would get the equivelent of 367 miles per gallon. Take that Volt!

Get used to seeing more triple digit fuel economy ratings as Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, and other niche players start rolling out the electric line-ups over the next 3-4 years. Some will be pure electric models, others will be extended range models with a gas assist, and still others could incorporate fuel cells. Whatever their structure, they all will deliver whopper mileage.

All of this reminds me of what Jay Leno said to me a few years back. He said, "We're on the cusp of a whole new era in autos. It's exciting to see what the car companies are working on."

Chevy Volt
Source: chevrolet.com
Chevy Volt

He's right. The technology going into these electric cars has already improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years. By the time the Volt hits showrooms late next year, the next generation of electric cars will be well beyond where we are today.

As my friend said, get ready, the electrics and incredible mileage are coming.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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