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Where to Plug In

October 25, 2000|JOHN O'DELL

Here is a look at significant electric vehicles introduced in California since the first models came on the market in 1997--and their current availability.

Lease prices are for the Los Angeles area and factor in a subsidy offered through the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The effect of a new statewide subsidy program has not been factored into the prices.

Most EVs--as well as other alternative-fuel vehicles--can be rented at the Budget EV Rental Cars facility at the Los Angeles International Airport (http://www.evrental.com). Exhaustive information about vehicles, subsidy programs and other EV-related matters can be obtained from the California Air Resources Board at (800) 363-7664 or http://www.zevinfo.com.

EV1. It's made by General Motors Corp. and marketed through its Saturn dealerships. The 500 extended-range Generation II models with advanced nickel-metal-hydride batteries all have been leased. Revamped Generation I models, first built in 1996 and outfitted with new longer-range lead-acid batteries after a recall early this year took all 450 of them off the road, are expected to be ready for lease in the first quarter of 2001. GM has not priced them yet, but has hinted that it won't let them go for the same $399 a month it charged for the first batch.

EV-Plus. Honda stopped building this custom-made electric last year, after meeting its obligation to produce 325 for the California market. But the original leases have run out and Honda is re-leasing them through selected dealers. Some are going to drivers who are renewing at $300 a month, others to new users for $375. The original $499 monthly rate has been dropped, a Honda spokesman says, "because they have a few miles on them now."

RAV4 EV. Toyota's electric mini-SUV is available for $457 a month ($599 unsubsidized), but only to fleet users such as Southern California Edison. In addition to 120 new units being leased for 2001, Toyota also has about 800 original RAV4 electrics that will be re-leased for $450 a month as their initial three-year terms expire.

Ranger EV. Ford continues to make and lease an electric-powered version of its compact pickup. Marketing is aimed at fleet users, but individuals who want a limited-range electric Ranger can get a lease through a certified Ford EV dealer--there are five in Southern California. The monthly rate is $449.

Altra EV. Nissan never built many Altras--only 30 were originally made available in California to selected fleet users for $599 a month. The company says it has no plans to build more or to re-lease the first batch.

EPIC. Chrysler's electric minivan is another that had only limited use in commercial and test fleets. The company so far has leased about 130 in California at $450 a month. Chrysler says it won't have more available until the 2003 model year, when it will begin leasing to consumers.

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