Electric cars are coming to a showroom near you

Nissan said today it will debut its all-electric Leaf in California and four other states in December, while General Motors is expected to allow consumers to drive off in its Chevy Volt this fall.

Meanwhile, GM ended nearly three years of speculation by announcing today that it will slap a $41,000 price on the base model of its electric automobile. "Taking the $7,500 tax credit into account, the net cost to the buyer will thus be $33,500," according to gm-volt.com. "GM is pricing the car’s lease price much more aggressively. The three-year, 36-month lease payment will be $350 per month with $2,500 down payment."

Nissan priced its Leaf at $32,780, according to Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post.

"At those prices, the cars are considerably more expensive than comparably sized cars that run on gas, such as the Honda Civic or the Ford Focus, each of which costs under $20,000," Whoriskey writes.

"Moreover, General Motors is hoping the Volt's added capability will attract buyers who are considering the Leaf. The Volt's battery -- with a range of 40 miles -- is supplemented by a gasoline-powered generator that allows it to go another 340 miles. The Leaf has a range of 100 miles on its battery."

The marketability of both cars remains untested. After a boost provided by initial media attention, sales could stagnate. The uncertainty over the technology and an unwillingness by the American public to adapt to different requirements of a new technology could further erode potential market share.

However, both automakers are staking millions of dollars on their electric cars. And although pricing remains a question many speculate the clean cars will find fans. Here's a post from nuclearboy on gm-volt.com: "They deserve this price and the car is worth far more than a 100 mile range BEV (battery electric vehicle). Everyone of them will sell. Demand for them will spur on the process of developing Volt Version 2.0."

In addition to California, Nissan will sell its Leaf in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee. The company said the areas are home to the EV Project, an effort partly funded by a U.S. Department of Energy and under partnership with ECOtality to provide charging stations.

The Leaf will be introduced to Texas and Hawaii in January 2011; to North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Alabama in April 2011; and to the rest of the country a year from now.

"Consumer feedback and market readiness have been key drivers in developing our phased rollout," said Brian Carolin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America. "Nissan is able to target areas of customer demand for early launch, while continuing to work in future markets to ensure the continued success of electric vehicles."