While the much-lauded Tesla Roadster has announced that production for the 2008 model will begin in March, and that a waiting list is already in effect for the 2009 Roadster, the $98,000 price tag and California residency requirements make it a dream car that will have to remain in dreamland for most buyers.
We must look to more conventional manufacturers, then, for the immediate future of EV. While we're still years away from driving the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt (which is really less of an EV than it is a sort of reverse-hybrid), Toyota is currently testing the plug-in version of their popular Toyota Prius, which as long been the poster child of hybrid vehicles, and rumor has it that it will go to production in 2009. As well, Ford has recently announced a PHEV (plug-in electric hybrid vehicle) version of the Escape SUV (incorrectly billed as an Explorer in some publications). Running primarily on electric power during normal commute-style driving, it achieves about 30 miles of high-efficiency drive after its Lithium-Ion battery pack has charged overnight, but it can handle longer trips by reverting to "normal" hybrid operation.
And then there's Subaru, which has thrown its proverbial hat into the micro-car ring, with their purely electric vehicle the R1e, which was developed in collaboration with the Tokyo Electric Power Company. In the operating area for TEPC, more than 150 charging stations for electric cars already exist, and more are planned.
The R1e will include an electric motor that provides the equivalent of 54 horsepower, which is roughly the same that is provided by the gasoline engine in it's sister-car the R1. Its battery pack only offers a small range - about fifty miles - but for normal in-town driving in a place where there are charging stations, that's not at all bad, especially since this car can be recharged to 80% of it's capacity in eight minutes (or six hours for a full charge). Subaru is anticipating that this car will have a lifespan of about 120,000 miles, which equals about ten years of drive-time.
While it's not likely to be quite as expensive as the full-sized, fully loaded Tesla Roadster, the Subaru R1e will probably come with a much heftier pricetag than similarly-sized gas-powered cars, and Subaru is being cautious about sales, only offering 100 units in the first year of production. They do have the aid of the Japanese government, however, which has agreed to reduce car tax and sales tax on the R1e by 90%, and allow it to travel on toll roads at a reduced fee. Representatives at Subaru also point out that technology becomes less expensive as it becomes more commonplace, and expects that within about four years it will sell for the equivalent of about $17,500. They've also stated that their EV technology will be licensed to other manufacturers.
The Subaru R1e, like the Toyota Prius, is expected to be available in 2009, and when the 2009 version of Tesla's Roadster is added to the mix, it may mean that 2009 will be noted as the Year of EV.