Electric cars now have range to go with spunk

car on right going faster than car on leftDriving on the freeway last week, a car descended the on-ramp to my right, so I accelerated to make room behind me. It was a slower car, or so I thought.

Instead it shot forward and squeezed onto the road in front of me. Surprising – not because the guy drove so aggressively, but because he drove a Nissan Leaf, a little electric car with a dinky 107-horsepower motor.

It's probably the small car's horsepower-to-weight ratio that gave it some zip. Now that I know better, I won't assume electric cars are slugs. Especially after reading today about the new Chevy Volt.

The electric Volt, priced at around $30,000 after a government tax credit, surges from zero to 60 in just 6.5 seconds. Sheesh. That's faster than my 1970 Chevelle SS (which incidentally, at best, gets just 15 miles per gallon on the highway).

What's really impressive is, the new Volt is the first electric car to go more than 200 miles per charge. It can travel up to 238 miles, which would get you quite a distance around the Northwest. For example, from Seattle to Kennewick (226 miles), Spokane to Missoula (197), or Portland to Pendleton (209).

Chevy Volt Electric cars cost more to insure because they cost more to repair. After a crash, their pricey battery systems require specially trained mechanics.

But consumers like electrics anyway because they're eco-friendly and don't gobble costly fossil fuel. Next year, Tesla introduces its own mass-market Model 3, and already it has 300,000 customer pre-orders. You may have to drive a ways to find a Tesla showroom nearby. There's one in Seattle, two in Bellevue, and one in Portland.

And as you might suspect, you can find a Chevy dealership almost anywhere, even in small towns from Colville to Cottage Grove.

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