Are new electric cars for you?

September 20, 2010 Electric cars' limited driving range is a key consideration. The Chevy Volt can go 40 miles on an electric charge. But it does have a small gas engine that can go an additional 300 miles on a tank of gas. The Nissan Leaf, powered solely by an electric battery, has a 100-mile range before it has to be plugged in.

But driving isn't the only thing that's going to drain your battery. Headlights, wipers, heat, and air conditioning all use electricity, even just playing the radio. So Consumer Reports says how far you can actually go on a charge is going to vary.

Recharge time is another important consideration. On a regular household 110-volt outlet, the Chevy Volt takes about 10 hours to recharge. With the Nissan Leaf's larger battery, you need about 16 hours.

Consumer Reports says you can cut down that time considerably by installing a 220-volt circuit in your home and purchasing a 220-volt charger for the car. Together they could run you about $2,000.

Consumer Reports says another consideration before buying an electric car is whether your house can handle the additional demand of charging it. The dealership will help arrange for an electrician to inspect your home to see whether it needs to be updated.

As for cost, the Chevy Volt retails for $41,000. The Nissan Leaf is around $33,600. And there's a $7,500 federal tax credit available for both.

The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are just the first of many electric cars expected to come out. In the next year and a half, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota will all introduce new electric vehicles.

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