New Electric Car Tests

FRESNO, Calif.

The Chevrolet Volt is available on a limited basis, but when Eddie Luvic saw the electric car in the showroom, he was sold.

"I saw the Chevy Volt on the floor, I looked it over, and I had to buy it."

At consumer reports auto test, testers have checked out the Volt, which has a backup gasoline engine, and the Nissan Leaf, which is 100 percent electric.

Range - or how far an electric vehicle can go on a charge - is a big issue. Testers have found that cold weather is a problem.

"The Nissan Leaf can go about 100 miles on a charge, but that's in ideal conditions. In our experience, cold weather can shorten that to about 65 miles," Jake Fisher said.

The volt, in low temperatures, has trouble fully heating. It can go anywhere from 25 to 50 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in, which can take the car up to 300 miles. But you pay a price for this.

"The added gasoline engine makes the Volt expensive, and on long drives you may wind up actually using more fuel than you would in a conventional hybrid like the Prius," Fisher said.

As for recharge time - with a 220-Volt charger that you can install in your home - the Volt takes about four to five hours. The Leaf takes about eight hours on average.

The Leaf is less expensive, costing about $35,000. The Volt is about 45,000. But even with federal and state tax credits, neither is likely to save you money.

"Electric vehicles have come a long way. But they still have a long way to go before they're ready to replace the average person's primary vehicle," Fisher said.

But if you're willing to pay a premium for going gas-free, one of these vehicles might be right for you.

If you're interested in a car that will be kind to the environment and get good mileage, consumer reports recommends the Toyota Prius. It gets 44 miles per gallon overall.

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