Top 5 electric cars go head to head

Should the average consumer buy into this electric car craze?

I don't know. Really. I believe in clean energy, but I'm sold on gasoline (even though at 14 I blew myself up in Fairbanks trying to start a pile of debris on fire with my 5-gallon container of chainsaw fuel. But that's another Human Torch type story.)

Gas has that hard-acceleration, immediate-return-on horsepower, lust-for-life feeling.

But give me $101,500 or $9,900 for a deposit and $1,658 a month for a lease and maybe I'll change my mind. That's the price for a Tesla Roadster. At 3.7 seconds from 0 to 60 mph and a range of 245 miles, it's pretty close to perfect.

I pause here on a mental trip in that imaginary Roadster -- black, by the way -- down Highway 99 to Bakersfield. Make that past Bakersfield and up the Grapevine to Vallejo and Magic Mountain, stomping the guts of BMWs and Mercedes that attempt to be fast. Ah ...

For purposes of this post, I have eliminated hybrids. No Toyota Prius or Camry. Skip the Honda Insight and Ford Escape. Electric only. Nor have I included lead-acid or lithium battery conversions.

And at this point, we only have Tesla on the road with a production vehicle. Actually, ZAP has to be tossed into the mix as well. The Santa Rosa-based company manufactures a line of small transporters. In July, the company inked a deal in which ZAP will acquire 51 percent of Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd. for $29 million "as part of a strategy to capitalize on the growing automotive and electric vehicle market in China."

This list includes models expected to be available soon. So here goes.
  1. Tesla: Hands down. It's fast, cool looking and I could truly blow the doors off my friend Al's TA in OK City. He likes to race that hopped up big block 1977 Pontiac on the track.
  2. Chevy Volt. Very practical. It's versatile and not bad looking. The price is $41,000 and the range id 40 miles. However, it is supplemented by a gasoline-powered generator that allows it to go another 340 miles. Due out this fall.
  3. Nissan LEAF. Not bad. Sort of looks like an early generation Prius with a custom back end. The price tag for the SV package was listed as $32,780, while the SL package was $33,720. The SV includes a photovoltaic spoiler, rearview monitor and universal transceiver. Range is 100 miles. Due in California in December.
  4. Coda. Cool name. Last Led Zep album comes to mind. But unproven company in the United States. I was impressed with the website which calculated an annual expense comparison of my 2000 VW Passat and a Coda. Passat: $725, Coda: $124. Coda's sticker price is not listed on its site but it's expected to be in the low to mid $30,000 range.
  5. Sigma. lists Sigma/Montelle kit cars as a viable option. Manufactured by EV Concepts, it goes from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds and has a top speed of 100-120 mph. Price for two-wheel-drive models start at $23,000, and all-wheel-drive models start at $55,000.
There's also Ford, which is coming out with a stylish electric version of its Focus sometime next year and will follow with a line of electric vehicles, says Range for the Focus will be about 100 miles. And Audi, Mercedes and others are reportedly in R&D.

Fisker Automotive Inc. of Irvine is also coming out with a car, but it's going to be a hybrid.

Disclosure. I've not test driven any of these cars. For that I'd have to defer to Katie Fehrenbacher of, who can be seen in video piloting some of them.

The viability of going electric appears more likely by the month. But who knows. A friend of mine who's worked most of his life in the oil patch says, "Bah!" to most of this talk. His prediction: There's just too much oil and natural gas in reserve, counting shale and oil sands.

Photo: Sigma by EV Concepts.