Fully Charged


Developed by: Commuter Cars
Release date: July 2005 (first car sold to George Clooney, 10 have been sold since)
Years in development: 10
Special feature: Snakes through heavy traffic
Number of passengers: 2

A freeway-ready EV that goes from zero to 60 in less than four seconds and reaches a top speed of 135 mph, the Tango is about the width of a Harley-Davidson. Inventor Rick Woodbury spent more than 10 years developing the Tango in his spare time while he ran a successful textbook business. Today, Commuter Cars has sold 11 vehicles for about $150,000 each. Prices will drop if the Tango enters mass production, but that requires significant capital. With $150 million in funding, Woodbury says he could build 30,000 cars over two years and sell them for $29,000 apiece with a 50% profit margin.


Developed by: Zap Electric Vehicles
Years in development: 3
Expected release date: Late 2010
Special feature: Three wheels
Number of passengers: 3

Since the early 1990s, Santa Rosa (Calif.)-based Zap Electric Vehicles has been distributing scooters, vans, and other specialty EVs from overseas manufacturers. The sleek, three-wheeled Alias, set for release later this year, will be Zap's first original model. Zap claims it will go from zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds, with a top speed of more than 75 mph and a range of 100 miles. Although Zap has promised EVs that didn't materialize in the past, the Alias qualified for the third round of the 2010 Progressive Insurance X-Prize, a $10 million competition for next-generation EVs.


Developed by: General Motors, Segway
Years in development: 2
Expected release date: 2030
Special feature: Balances on two wheels; zero turn radius.
Number of passengers: 2

One-sixth the size of a conventional car, this twin-wheel, two-seat concept vehicle is powered by wheel-mounted electric motors that also serve as brakes. Jointly developed by GM and Segway, the EN-V (short for Electric Networked Vehicle) incorporates GPS-based wireless network technology and sensors to drive itself and avoid obstacles. GM unveiled the prototype at this year's New York Auto Show but doesn't expect it to be commercially available until 2030.


Developed by: Italdesign Giugiaro for Malaysian automaker Proton
Years in development: 5+
Special feature: Advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain from Lotus Engineering
Expected release date: N/A (concept only)
Number of passengers: Four-seat hatchback, five-seat hatchback, 3+1 seat for city driving

Malaysian automaker Proton recently unveiled three concept cars based on the Lotus plug-in hybrid drivetrain. They include a three-door compact for city driving and four- and five-seat hatchbacks. Proton has sold 3 million vehicles in Asian markets, and these cars could help green the Pacific Rim if they enter production.


Developed by: Smart Cities Group, MIT Media Lab
Years in development: 7
Expected release date: 2013 or beyond
Special feature: Folding frame, omidirectional "robot wheels"
Number of passengers: 2

This folding, two-seat electric vehicle currently exists only as half-scale prototypes built by student researchers at MIT's famed Media Lab. It folds because it has no central engine or power train; instead, electric motors housed in the wheels provide power and regenerative braking. Lead designer Bill Mitchell, an architect and urban planner who heads MIT's Smart Cities research team, sees a future in which "swarms" of CityCars travel together like birds or fish, automatically positioning themselves at a set distance from their neighbors.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.