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It may sound more like an overactive toy than a car, but Nissan swears the "Hypermini", a tiny but peppy two-seat electric vehicle (EV), will take drivers 60 miles on a single battery charge-without drinking a single drop of gasoline. While they're not exactly as simple to recharge as your cell phone, the Hypermini and other alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) have hit the marketplace hard this year, and more are on the way.
The most popular and practical AFVs are hybrids powered by a combination of two energy sources, such as gasoline and natural gas. Most models sacrifice trunk space to house batteries or natural gas tanks, so if you carry lots of equipment, you may find them unsuitable for your business needs. However, some provide plenty of passenger room. Toyota's Prius, for example, seats five.
Benefits for budgetwise businesspeople include great savings on fuel bills and some peace on the road with quiet electric motors. Honda's Insight can take you 600 to 700 miles on a single tank of gasoline, and the car's engine automatically recharges its buddy electric motor while you're driving.
AFV drawbacks include a current dearth of recharging stations and natural-gas centers, lower horsepower with non-gasoline engines and multihour recharging. Toyota's RAV4-EV sports utility vehicle, for example, needs a 6.5-hour hook-up before it's ready to roll.
Prices for AFVs are generally in line with their standard models
and stretch from just under $20,000 to about $40,000. Some can be
purchased as fleets only. But some dealers consider a single
company car a fleet, so this method could save you serious
Jill Amadio has reported on the automotive industry for 23 years as an editor and a consultant.