Plug-in auto expo held at SJ Convention Center


This is an important showcase for automakers anxious to show off their technology prowess. It is also an opportunity for GM to demonstrate it's on target with a mass-appeal electric car.

The price tag for the Chevy Volt is $41,000. With federal and state tax credits, your cost will drop to $33,500. It can also be leased for $350 per month with a $2,500 cash payment for three years. It charges on 110 or 220 volt current and it comes with a few bells and whistles.

"Standard screen-based navigation, Bose premium audio, five years of On-Star directions and connections," Chevy Volt marketing director Tony DiSalle said.

Dealers are taking orders for delivery later this year and the same is true for the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Tax credits bring the price of this car down to $20,000 in California.

That could prompt some buyers to think twice about hybrids.

"From our perspective, going to zero emission is the ultimate goal and that's why we decided to shortcut these transient technologies as our main direction for the future," Nissan America Chairman Carlos Tavares said.

Still, industry leaders recognize some drivers worry about the limited range of all-electric cars. The Leaf can go 100 miles on a charge, while the Volt goes about 340 miles with the help of a gas-powered generator.

"For those of you that get nervous every time the gas gauge dips below half, there are plug-in hybrids, and you never have to worry about running out of a charge, so we have different options for different folks," Mark Duvall from the Electronic Power Research Institute said.

Several companies are moving ahead with charging stations when it's not possible to plug in at home.

Chelsea Sexton has been urging the development of plug-in cars for 15 years. What she sees at the expo gives her hope we're close to a tipping point.

"I think as soon as people see that these cars are real, they're available, that they work in everyday lives and that's really what starts the change. It's realizing that it's not just a concept car. It's not just an appliance. It's just like a regular car with all the fun and emotion and without all the downsides," she said.

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