Crash test results for electric vehicles due out

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Sales of electric vehicles remain a small part of the total U.S. car market, but they also represent the future of automotive technology and fuel efficiency.

There are now 17 models of electric cars on sale in the U.S while annual sales are less than 1 percent, owners are among the most vocal there are.

"They are heard on this vehicle unlike any other vehicle, and their feedback as I stated is unbelievable. They are not afraid to call us, to tell us, to reach out to a dealer, an advocacy group or something," said Brendan Jones, Director of Nissan electric vehicle sales.

It's feedback from electric vehicle owners that is helping to shape improvements, upgrades and new features. Engineers are doing their part, too.

The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are being given their most extensive crash evaluation ever by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results come out Tuesday night and may provide new criteria to influence buying decisions.

Some car shoppers remain reluctant to switch to electric vehicles. It is more expensive for a hybrid, and partially like I said because of the cost of the batteries. From my understanding it's very expensive to replace them," said car shopper Debbie Mogg.

Another consideration is whether to go with a pure electric car or one that also has a gas-powered engine.

"If you don't need an engine for what you do during the day, it's best to leave it out, so if you have a car that you commute in and don't drive long distances, the battery in an electric vehicle is a great approach," said Mark Duvall of Electric Power Research Institute.

Research is going into the next generation of charging stations.

"If the vehicle could tell the charger that I need a certain amount of energy, the charger can make the decision in a smart way. If I tell it my departure time, it can say I have five vehicles charging. I'll allocate energy to the vehicles in terms of their priority.that can't be done right now because we don't have that communications capability," said John Halliwell of Electric Power Research Institute.

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