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Putting the zoom into electric cars

For the first time since the early 20th century, America is seeing a flowering of entrepreneurship in the auto industry. Today at least 11 new electric car companies, each working on a wide range of technologies, have launched or plan to launch models. These upstarts are not modest. They believe they can do what major automakers have failed to do: bring an electric car to the mass market.

Over the years entrepreneurs would occasionally emerge with a new design to challenge the Big Three, yet all failed. But the entrepreneurs and investors behind these new small firms think they will succeed thanks to consumer desire to address global warming, an abundance of investment capital, new breakthroughs in fiber composite body material, and the availability of cheap computing power and software that help simulate design challenges long before new cars hit the road.

By taking aim at many markets, the electric auto makers are multiplying their chances of success. Tesla Motors of San Carlos, Calif., will sell in early 2008 a speedy $98,000 electric roadster for the Hollywood and hedge fund sets (George Clooney and the Google guys have mailed in their down payments).






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