Next year will see several major automakers test the waters with their new electric offerings, with cars like the new Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid all available by then. However, the real electric onslaught is expected to come in 2012, a timeframe that will allow consumers to properly adjust to the idea of alternative powered vehicles becoming a mainstream option.

Leading the charge will be Toyota, which reportedly will have three key electric models on sale: a new all-electric model or BEV (battery electric vehicle), volume numbers of its Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and an as yet unknown Prius-based model.

The information comes from an inside source at Toyota, who revealed to Automotive News that all three vehicles will be on sale by the first half of 2012.

We already know most of the details for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid; you can even read our drive report of a prototype version by clicking here.

Toyota has also previewed its BEV in the form of the FT-EV all-electric concept car based on the iQ minicar. Trials of the new BEV, which should be able to drive up to 50 miles on a single charge, are already taking place around the globe.

As for the Prius-based model, the new car is expected to be the first of a new family of Prius-badged cars, which could include a new minivan and even a sports coupe.

In the lead up to their arrival, Toyota will also launch an online viral marketing campaign outlining to promote its new electric fleet and continue to secure its position as one of the ‘greenest’ automakers.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]