Editor’s Note: This list represents the ten “best” electric and plug-in hybrid cars (as I see them) coming out in the next two years. However, after that initial culling, this list has been organized by release date, not preference.

With the onslaught of electric concepts and announcements coming out of the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, you’d think that the entire world is about to junk their old jalopies and rush out and buy electric cars tomorrow.

But alas, as much as millions of Americans would love to pay 3 cents a mile on their daily commutes, our choices for electric cars are at the moment, severely lacking.

Although the promise of the 2009 Detroit Auto Show reeks of desperation, it’s not all smoke and mirrors. Believe it or not, there are a bunch of noteworthy electric cars, both all-battery and extended range plug-ins reaching US production sometime in the next two years.

So, if you’ve got the time to wait and you find yourself longing for the cheapest, quietest, and most earth-friendly commute you could imagine, take a gander at this list… electric bliss is closer than you probably thought.

1. Aptera 2e

If you’ve been paying attention to the world of electric car start-ups, you’ve heard of Aptera. Although the company’s original intention of reaching volume production by the end of last year never came to fruition, the Aptera 2e lives on. According to recent reports, you can expect to see this car hitting the roads in “volume” by October of 2009.

When: Late 2009 (California Only)

How Much: $20-40K, depending on options

How Far: 100-120 Miles on one charge

2. ZAP Alias

Like the Aptera 2e, the ZAP Alias will sport a design conjured from the bowels of an alien spaceship.

Although ZAP just started construction on the facility that will build the Alias last September, the company still swears that the first of these funky 3 wheelers will start rolling off the assembly line by late 2009.

When: Late 2009

How Much: Under $35K

How Far: 100+ Miles on one charge

3. cityZENN (Powered by EEStor)

To be honest, I’ll be blown away if ZENN actually meets the stated delivery date on this one, but if they do…world watch out! The cityZENN with an EEStor energy storage device on board may not be the prettiest kid on the block… but does a 5 minute recharge time coupled with a 250 mile range sound like a game changer to you? I thought so.

When: Late 2009

How Much: Under $30K

How Far: 250 Miles on one charge

4. Th!nk City

Perhaps the most affordable of all straight up electric cars coming to the US in 2009, the Th!nk City will more than likely sport a battery lease program which will cut down on up front costs and allow you to get a new battery without paying out the yin yang when the old one kicks the bucket. Even though Th!nk has been going through some serious financial problems as of late, it seems that they’ve been given enough of a reprieve to make it through the world financial meltdown — although their target US release date of sometime in 2009 may not be accurate anymore.

When: Sometime in 2009

How Much: Under $25K

How Far: 110 Miles on one charge

5. Plug-in Toyota Prius

With the introduction of the new 2009 Prius at the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota also had a bit of a surprise announcement — a plug-in version of the Prius will be available to fleets by October of this year. Although this initial release is only a limited test run, I’d imagine that we will see these plug-in Priuses hitting the general consumer market in the 2010 timeframe. Don’t be too floored yet though, purportedly the test mules can only go 10 miles on battery power alone.

When: Limited release October 2009; general 2010

How Much: Unknown, but you can bet there’ll be a decent price premium above the standard Prius so expect it to be around $28-30K.

How Far: 10 Miles on battery power alone, unknown mileage after battery is drained but probably better than the standard Prius’ 50 MPG.

6. Chevy Volt

If you live in the US, unless you’ve been living in a cave, I’m willing to bet good money that you’ve heard of the Volt. Otherwise known as GM’s sole hope for convincing the US taxpayer to fund a bailout, the Volt actually looks like a very impressive work of engineering. And to be frank, it’s the only car from a major US automaker in the last 30 years that I would actually consider buying. If GM makes it to the finish line and the Volt reaches the market, there’s a new federal tax credit of $7,500 that might actually make the thing affordable too.

When: Late 2010

How Much: Estimates have fallen somewhere between $30-48K (then subtract $7,500 for the federal tax credit)

How Far: 40 Miles on battery power alone, something like 50 MPG after that.

7. Fisker Karma

Although the Karma is truly a play toy for the wealthy, you have to admit, if you have the money to buy one of these things, you have a family, and you care about the planet, this may be the perfect car for you. Having just opened a huge design center in Michigan, Fisker seems to be in a good position to deliver on its promises.

When: Second half 2010

How Much: Around $87K

How Far: 50 Miles on battery power alone, total fuel economy of more than “100 MPG.”

8. Tesla Model S

Another play toy for the wealthy, the upcoming Tesla Model S promises to be a cheaper follow-up to the instantly recognizable Tesla Roadster. Adding two doors and room for a family while at the same time knocking a ton of money off the price of the Roadster, the Model S has the potential to be a knock out hit with the upper middle class. Tesla has hit a bit of a rough patch with cash flow recently, which may impact the actual delivery date of the Model S.

When: Late 2010

How Much: Around $60K

How Far: 240 Miles on one charge

9. Nissan Electric Car

Not very many details on this one yet, but Nissan has recently rewritten their overarching business plan to include a huge focus on electric cars including releasing electric cars in the US by 2010. According to Alan Buddendeck, Nissan’s VP for North American Corporate Communications, the initial electric car offering will be priced between $22-$25K and have at least a range of 100 miles.

When: Sometime in 2010

How Much: $22-25K

How Far: At least 100 miles on one charge

10. BMW/Mini Electric Car

At first everybody thought the 2009 Mini E limited lease meant that a future general market electric car release from the BMW Group would be, of course, a Mini E. But after much acclaim, it turns out that the Mini E is purely a test bed for an upcoming BMW branded electric car and that the Mini E will never see full production. No details are known about any of these future BMW electric models.

When: Sometime in 2010

How Much: Unknown

How Far: Unknown

Image Credits: All images from the various manufacturers and Wired.com


Editor’s Note from 2019:

Anyone reading this article in 2019? Did anyone else notice a pattern?

With the exception of Tesla and Fisker, (and not really Fisker because their new cars are being made by a Chinese conglomerate who are only using the Fisker name) only offerings from the big boys have survived.

What does that say about the automotive industry? What does that say about global markets in general?

If you’re so inclined please drop by the comments section below and share your thoughts on the subject.