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10 Plug-In Electric Vehicles You Can Buy Today

Headlines about the upcoming Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have zapped the nation awake to the possibilities of electric vehicles. The promise of clean, quiet operation, paying only pennies on the mile, and autonomy from oil seems to be just around the corner… But with launch dates stretching into 2011, availability in just a few states to begin with, not to mention dealership markups that could tack on up to $20,000 on MSRP, the Volt and Leaf are bound to remain elusive for months to come.

But they’re not the only options.

A handful of startups have already done away with engines and pioneered street-legal electric vehicles you can charge up in your garage and drive to work, school or the park – right now. While few of them have the speed or range of the next generation of electric vehicles, not to mention the cushy features, the early adopter who’s willing to cut some luxuries to cut emissions will find plenty to love in this selection of electric vehicles available today.

Zap Xebra Sedan

Price: $11,700
Maximum Range: 40 miles
Top Speed: 40 mph

This mousy little trike won’t win you any style points, but with seating for up to four and optional leather-appointed seating, it’s among the most practical and civilized EVs whirring around the streets today.

Zero S Electric Motorcycle

Price: $9,995
Maximum Range: 50 miles
Top Speed: 67 mph

Like its dirt-friendly cousins the Zero MX and DS, the street-savvy Zero S uses a lightweight lithium-ion battery pack and torquey electric motor to build a high-performance machine comparable with a small gas-powered motorcycle. The result: A green machine that can still wheelie.

Zenn Electric Car

Price: Around $16,000
Maximum Range: 50 miles
Top Speed: 25 mph

Canada’s Zenn Motors has given up on selling its squat little EV in favor of chasing new battery tech, but used examples can still be found in the U.S. and Canada for a song. It’s best feature: a slide-back sunroof so you can feel the wind – more like a gentle breeze at the speeds this thing goes – in your hair.

Tesla Roadster

Price: $109,000
Maximum Range: 245 miles
Top Speed: 125 mph

We hope you weren’t looking for an EV to save money. The highest performing EV in the bunch not only goes faster and farther than any other, it will stick you to the back of the set pretty good too. The lightweight coupe uses all 295 foot pounds of torque in its beefy electric motor to sling drivers from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds flat – and looks good doing it.

Zap Xebra Truck Solar

Price: $13,200
Maximum Range: 40 miles under ideal driving conditions
Top Speed: 40 mph

The Xebra truck closely resembles the sedan, but swaps back seats for a versatile cargo bed, and adds a Xero solar panel up top for completely free, renewable charging. Even on a sunny day, it won’t supply enough juice to power the car as you drive it, but it can help trickle charge the Xebra while parked to ease the load on your electricity meter – and power plants.

Miles ZX40s Advanced Design

Price: $19,900
Maximum Range: 50 miles
Top Speed: 25 mph

Miles uses the proven design of Daihatsu’s Move subcompact, but retrofits it with a 26kW electric motor and other gas-free trim at a factory in China. The standard body means you still get luxuries like a radio, A/C and power mirrors, not to mention full DOT compliance.

Quantya EVO1 Strada

Price: $10,700
Maximum Range: 2.5 hours
Top Speed: 40 mph

This toothpick of a motorcycle from Quantya in Switzerland weighs only 195 pounds, yet still wears all the badges, mirrors and lights to make get the DMV’s approval, making it equally spritely at zipping between pine trees and pedestrians. It can also be electriconically uncorked to edge past the 40 mph top speed, though not without sacrificing battery life.

GEM e2

Price: $7,395
Maximum Range: 30 miles
Top Speed: 25 mph

Yes, it’s a glorified golf cart. But it’s priced like one, too, and GEM’s insane options program let you deck your e2 out with everything from basics like a dome light and accessory outlets to over-the-top accessories like heated seats and chrome bumpers.

Wheego Whip 500 LSV

Price: $18,995
Maximum Range: 40 miles
Top Speed: 35mph (with reprogramming)

Like the Zenn, Wheego’s Whip won’t get out of its own way in a hurry, but it offers some slick creature comforts like built-in A/C and a stereo system that will play MP3s, not to mention one of the less embarrassing profiles for an EV. A new version that uses lithium-ion batteries should offer a 100-mile range next year – but at $33,000, you might want to wait for the Leaf instead.

Dynasty iT

Price: $19,000
Maximum Range: 31 miles
Top Speed: 25 mph

With exterior styling of a Volkswagen Beetle and the interior of a go-kart, this quirky Canadian export may not appeal to everyone, but seating for four and plenty of cargo room make it a practical choice – provided you’re not going far.

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