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Car makers ready for electric charge.


CAR manufacturers are ready to raise the voltage on a brave new world of electric motoring - and 2011 will herald the first major flick of the switch.

Leading the way is the world's first mass produced electric car, the Nissan Leaf which goes on sale in March for a princely pounds 23,950, including the government's now-confirmed pounds 5,000 subsidy for electric vehicles.

People aren't going to latch onto cars like the Leaf at a stroke. In fact Nissan reckons that in ten years time around 90 per cent of cars will still be powered by traditional engines.

But the change is coming and Nissan, along with partner Renault, is ploughing pounds 3 billion into a global vision that will see the Leaf - currently built in Japan - and its lithium ion batteries produced in the UK at Sunderland from 2013.

Leaf buyers will have the option of charging their car at home or using a roadside charging point to top up with enough juice to cover 100 miles or seven hours of use - for a cost of about pounds 2 a time.

Buying outright isn't the plan for another electric arrival as Citroen's aptly named C-ZERO - zero fuel consumption, zero CO2 emissions and zero engine noise - will instead be available for lease at pounds 415 a month over four years/40,000 miles, including warranty, servicing and maintenance.

While the Leaf - recently voted European Car of the Year 2011 - is a high spec family-size model the C-ZERO is a four-seater compact city car with 93-mile range, but leisurely acceleration of 0-62mph in 15.9 seconds. It also arrives early in the year.

Mitsubishi unleashed its own electric revolution last summer when the i-MiEV hit Japanese streets and the company has set prices for UK models at pounds 23,990 including the subsidy, and it will be joined by the Peugeot i0n, the smart fortwo electric drive micro model and Tata Vista.

On the conventional front there's a wealth of new product about to hit the streets, and none more so than the new Ford Focus.

More than 10 million Focus models have been sold since the original launch in 1998 and the latest models will include a range of advanced technologies like low speed safety system, active park assist, lane keeping aid and torque control.

8 Initially available in five-door hatchback and estate body styles, there will be three-door and coupe/cabriolet models available later as well as a high powered ST version.

While a revamped Honda Jazz and re-designed Vauxhall Corsa will whet the appetite of supermini fans, the most interesting small car will come from performance manufacturer Aston Martin, whose two-door city slicker the Cygnet is being built at the company's Gaydon plant and based on the Toyota iQ.

Also built in Britain, at the Halewood plant in Liverpool, is the most talked about new car of the coming year - the Range Rover Evoque.

Based on the LRX concept and available in both three and five-door versions, the Evoque goes on sale next summer when it will be available with a new range of petrol and diesel engines - a pair of 2.0-litre diesels and a 2.0-litre petrol - with stop-start facility.

Lovers of performance cars will have two much-awaited speed machines to drool over.

First up in the spring is the McLaren MP4-12C and those able to shell out pounds 168,500 will get the only car of its type to have a carbon chassis, be designed and developed in a Formula 1 factory and offer a whopping 600bhp from a 3.8-litre engine.

Double the price tag and there's the rear-wheel drive Lexus LFA, powered by a bespoke 552bhp 4.8-litre V10 engine, good for 200mph-plus.

Back down to earth Citroen's new C4 compact family car will cost from pounds 15,595, Toyota has a new Verso-S model - less than four metres long but with cabin and luggage space to rival a family hatchback - and Kia has high hopes for its new Optima that will also be available with a hybrid powertrain.

There's no let-up for Volkswagen, who continue the pace of a busy 2010 with a new Passat saloon and estate, a now larger Jetta model as well as a revised Eos, which remains the only vehicle of its kind to feature a five-piece metal folding hard top complete with an integrated glass sunroof.

And Peugeot's stylish new 508 will include eight engine choices, two body styles and Stop & Start technology when it arrives in the spring.

8 available as a ST pages of new & used motors


SPOTLIGHT ON STYLE: The new Ford Focus RAISING THE VOLTAGE: The Nissan Leaf and its lithium ion batteries will be produced in the UK from 2013
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2010
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