Douglas Stansfield was so anxious to own an electric car, he converted this 2003 Hyundai Tiburon.
Stansfield can go 20 miles on a charge, so he plans his trips carefully.
Douglas says, "Overall, I use it for my local travel back and forth to the doctor's office, to the dentist's office, to the kids' school - things and all that."
Electric cars' limited driving range is a key consideration, says Consumer Reports. The Chevy Volt can go 40 miles on an electric charge. But it does have a small gas engine that can go another 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.
Jake Fisher with Consumer Reports says, "But driving isn't the only thing that's going to drain your battery. Headlights, wipers, the heat, the air conditioning, it all uses electricity, even just playing the radio. So how far you can actually go on a charge, it's 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.
But federal tax incentives will cut that cost dramatically for many early adopters. Then, of course, there's the cost of the vehicle itself. The Chevy Volt retails for $41,000. The Nissan Leaf, around $33,600. And there's a $7,500 federal tax credit available for both.
Fisher found, "Electric cars hold a lot of promise. Clearly two big pluses are the ability to reduce gasoline consumption and run cleaner cars. But there's a lot to consider before you know they're right for you."
Consumer Reports says you can cut down the recharge time on electric vehicles by installing a 220-volt circuit in your home, but that could cost a couple of thousand dollars.
The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are just the first of many electric cars due out. In the next year and a half, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota will all introduce new electric vehicles.