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Summary:

Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) have won over the more passionate electric car fanatics, but for many drivers they seem impractical, unsafe, and somewhat less-than-thrilling to drive. But a growing number of automakers, including General Motors subsidiary Vauxhall, Ford, Norway’s Think Global, Toyota, Daimler and others are […]

Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) have won over the more passionate electric car fanatics, but for many drivers they seem impractical, unsafe, and somewhat less-than-thrilling to drive. But a growing number of automakers, including General Motors subsidiary Vauxhall, Ford, Norway’s Think Global, Toyota, Daimler and others are developing “subcompact” (tiny) electric vehicles that, with four wheels and enough power in many cases for highway speeds, won’t look or drive like your granddaddy’s golf cart.

While the upcoming generation of electric mini and micro cars could take some major strides beyond the current NEVs, they have more than a few hurdles standing in the way of mass-market adoption. Subcompacts appeal to city drivers with short commutes and limited parking — the same drivers who are less likely to have a garage where they can plug in and charge up at night than their suburban counterparts. Of course, there’s no way you’ll fit a family of five or a bicycle in these models. And while smaller cars don’t statistically put drivers at greater overall risk on the road, as the Wall Street Journal notes, they face questions about how safe they are on highways swarming with SUVs. A recent study found small, lightweight cars such as the Smart Fortwo and Toyota Yaris faired poorly in head-on collisions with heavier midsize vehicles, as this video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains.

Automakers are betting big on these next-generation little cars — here are six slated to hit U.S. or European roads in the next few years (though several of these are planned for limited regional rollouts). How likely are you to buy one if you have the chance?

Daimler Smart Fortwo EV: Daimler aims to give the electric version of the Fortwo enough power to reach 37 mph in 5.7 seconds and have a top speed of 70 mph. A fully charged battery is supposed to give a 150-mile range.
smart-ev

BMW Mini-E: The 573-pound battery pack, which sits where the backseat would usually be, is supposed to get a full charge in eight hours with a conventional wall socket, or three hours at high voltage, and deliver an all-electric range of 156 miles. As Wired notes, BMW aims for the model to do zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds and have a max speed of 95 mph.
mini-e

Think City: Norway’s Think says this two-seater (plus two kid-sized rear seats available as an optional extra) will have a top speed of 62 mph, a range of 111 miles on a full charge, and be able to reach 50 mph in 16 seconds.
TH!NK-city-Michigan-USA_imagelarge

Toyota FT-EV: Revealed in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show this year, the FT-EV is based on the Toyota iQ city car now sold in Japan. The company is aiming for a 50-mile electric range.
toyta_ft-ev

Mitsubishi iMiEV: This four-seater’s battery is slated to charge in seven hours with a 100-volt power supply, delivering a 100-mile range.
mitsubishi-imiev

Vauxhall Trixx: Using the Voltec drivetrain developed for the Chevy Volt, GM’s European arm, Vauxhall Motors UK, aims to launch an all-electric version of its Trixx concept as a “3-plus-1 seater” with a 90-mile range. According to Auto Express, the battery pack alone could cost upwards of $12,000 to make.
trixx-concept

Photos courtesy the automakers

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  1. Michael Brown Monday, May 11, 2009

    !00% electric Ford Mustang. 0-60 5.6 seconds, Top speed 85 mph or 105 mph, range 85 miles or 200+ miles, 110 or 220 volts, recharge time 2 hours to 6hours, regenerative brake system. Technology very similar to Tesla can be installed in any vehicle. All factory safety equipment still on vehicle. Full size cars or trucks work just as well as small. Be Green, Be Safe, Be Comfortable. Available NOW
    go to pluginmotors.com. Reply to mkb4550@yahoo.com

  2. What to read on the GigaOM network Monday, May 11, 2009

    [...] The New Micro EVs: 6 Subcompact Electric Vehicles to Watch [Earth2Tech] [...]

  3. Mithridates Monday, May 11, 2009

    Definitely the Think City or Mini’s car for me. The latter is actually already extremely popular where I live (Korea) and is a bit of a status symbol in the richer parts of Seoul, so selling it here would probably be almost effortless.

  4. Should Electric Carmakers Shift to More Mission-Specific Vehicles? Thursday, November 19, 2009

    [...] can be found among upcoming models, from Think with its electric two-seater (less than $25,000, 111-mile range), on up to Tesla with its Model S sedan ($57,400, 160-mile range), and the offerings from Coda, [...]

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