Supercars: sleek, blindingly fast, ultra-expensive objects of lust for 14-year-old boys and sober-suited executives alike.
For decades, supercars were powered solely by gasoline. But now there's a new gang in town, and they've upended all the rules.
The newest, coolest, most jaw-dropping supercars will come with one feature no Ferrari or Maserati or Lamborghini or Noble or Aston Martin has ever had.
It's a charging cord.
Here are six supercars--one in production now, five on the way--that use electric power for some or all of their motive power.
Whether it's combined with a gasoline engine (three of them) or run from batteries alone (the other three), electric power alone motivates these cars at least part of the time.
They're meant to provide enough electric range (a minimum of 15 or 20 miles) to let them travel through "zero-emission zones" likely to be imposed in some European city centers. Paris, for instance, will test its first emission-based bans starting this fall.
Their wealthy owners will drive the last few miles to their downtown jobs electrically, with nary a tailpipe pollutant emerging, as long as their pricey two-seater is in electric mode. Then ... pure, unadulterated speed thereafter.
One's available now; the latest will arrive by 2014. Feast your eyes ... and start saving your pennies.
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5Enlarge Photo
The Tesla Roadster is the father of them all. The small, crude two-seater came from a Silicon Valley startup carmaker, Tesla Motors, that startled the world's biggest automakers out of their complacency by building an electric car with supercar performance that was fun, even compelling, to drive.
And it didn't emit a single pollutant, because it had no tailpipe. The only way to get it to go was to plug it into the power grid.
Based in part on the Lotus Elise, the Tesla's 900-pound, 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack holds 6,831 commodity lithium-ion cells of the type used in mobile phones and laptops.
The 2011 Roadster Sport 2.5 model is the hot rod of the line, with a higher cost, extra features, and reprogrammed software to shave another two-tenths of a second off the 0-to-60-mph time, which is a mere 3.7 seconds.
Drive a Tesla Roadster once and you may become a convert to electric power. The sheer, unrelenting torque of the thing is that addictive.
The range? The faster and harder you drive, the lower it goes. Tesla quotes 244 miles; we'd say 120 to 150 is reasonable if you take advantage of the thrills. The list price is $125,000.
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell
The vibrant yellow of the car aside, the first all-electric car from the AMG in-house tuning shop of Mercedes-Benz looks similar to the 6.3-liter turbo V-8 powered SLS AMG.
That's the hot-rod version of the Benz gullwing-doored sports coupe that evokes perhaps its most famous and iconic sports car of the Fifties.
But the upcoming SLS AMG E-Cell tosses all that combustion engine stuff for a large lithium-ion battery pack and all-wheel-drive via two electric motors, one per axle. Total peak combined power is 392 kilowatts (525 hp), giving 0-to-62-mph acceleration of 3.9 seconds.
Its battery pack uses 324 large-format lithium-ion cells, a departure from the Tesla approach of using thousands of small commodity cells.
The price? It's projected to be a cool $307,000.