It looks like 2010 will finally be the year electric vehicles hit American roads. Or at least that's what the automakers are telling us. Just keep in mind, EVs and their technology are still in their infancy, and with an average 100-mile range, they aren't for everyone.
But if you're legitimately on the fence about buying one or just have the curiosity to see what all the hoopla is about, the New York Auto Show is having a ride-along that gives visitors the chance to see and feel the new cars at work.
The EV Pavilion track, at the bottom floor of Jacob K. Javits center, has some of the electric cars most likely to actually make it into mass production, including the Mini E, the Mitsubishi iMiev, Think City, and the EV retrofitted Saturn Sky and Chevy Equinox. The only notable omissions were the Nissan Leaf and the Fiat 500 EV.
I got the chance to drive the Mini E, iMiev, and Think -- and the best experience by far was the Think City. This Norwegian buggy is sturdy, safe, has decent pickup and, most importantly, it feels like driving a conventional car. Best of all it was announced that it would make it to New York sometime in the fall.
The iMiev offered the most space, with decent backseat room for a subcompact, but the steering felt unresponsive and the center of gravity was so high the car would actually roll heavily on corners. In fact, one test driver managed to lift the front right wheel off the track while turning. Mitsubishi hasn't announced when the iMiev would make it stateside.
The Mini E, already on the road through a select lease program in New York, LA, and Chicago, was the sportiest out of the EVs I tested, but it lacked a rear seat, and the regenerative braking was so rough it felt like I was driving with the handbrake on. BMW has yet to announce if it has plans beyond the lease program, but at nearly $900 a month to have one of these as part of that program, I don't see how the Mini E could get into an affordable price range.
Take a look at the video and stop by the New York Auto Show to get your own impressions of the car.
Photos: Newsday / Jose Moreno
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