We all see them driving around with their neo-modern design reminiscent of The Jetsons, though I’m unsure as to why they don’t design one that looks like a classic corvette, rather than a 1950s idea of a futuristic car, but as of yet, no one has asked my design opinion, so I’ll just have to take what I can get.
Including their looks, electric cars are an entirely different beast (especially under the hood) than either regular old combustion engine cars, or even their kissing-cousin, the hybrid. Electric cars run entirely on energy stored in batteries that need to be recharged from a power source (usually in your home) and which are attached to an electric motor. TheElectricCar.com explains how the accelerator pedal connects to an intricate system to indicate how much energy (or voltage) needs to be emitted from the batteries to the motor at any given time.
Hybrids, while also utilizing under-the-hood batteries, work very differently than an entirely electric vehicle. With a hybrid, you’ve got two systems, your standard combustion engine that needs petroleum-based fuel and an electric motor. The two systems work together and the batteries associated with the electric motor store up energy produced in using the combustion engine that otherwise would have gone to waste. These cars do not need to be plugged in or recharged – as the recharging happens while you drive. The US Department of Energy succinctly explains in detail how hybrid cars work.
Having said all that, what are the advantages of an electric vehicle? There are several, from energy savings, to monetary savings, to saving the environment from air pollution produced by running fossil-fuel vehicles to simply moving on to a renewable technology and energy source for a convenience, habit and custom we are not likely to give up anytime soon.
According to the Sierra Club’s article “Electric Vehicles: Myth vs. Reality“, published February 16, 2011, “An electric car leads to 35 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide pollution from electricity than the CO2 pollution from the oil of a conventional car with an internal combustion engine.” Also according to the same article, “Internal combustion engine vehicles use lead-acid batteries, and their recycle rate is about 98 percent in the US. The newer batteries for electric vehicles, such as those made of lithium-ion, include even more valuable and recyclable metals and will have a life well beyond the vehicle.”
While electric vehicles still run anywhere from low to mid $20,000′s for the new Volkswagen Jetta hybrid to $41,000 for the Chevy Volt, to $100,000-plus for a Tesla, the cost of batteries is the most prohibitive factor in research and design, production and price of electric vehicles. The electric-car industry and its user base are both waiting for the cost of batteries to fall to between $350-$375 per kilowatt-hour. Once this happens, the cost of electric vehicles will fall as well. Dan Mosher, Coda Automotive‘s chief financial officer, spoke at Electric Car 2.0 and had this to say about battery prices, “The $375 price might be fiction, but it’s a fact that the costs are coming down quite dramatically. Today, we might still be around $1,000 to $1,200 per kilowatt-hour.” He also predicted prices to fall to $375 in the next five to 10 years. 
Though rebates, both state and federal, must be taken into account, and taken soon, as both funds are running out faster than anticipated. As of this writing, federal tax incentives can save you up to $7,500 for the car and up to $2,000 for installation of a charging station; while California rebates go as high at $5,000. That could potentially drop your new Jetta down into the low teens. Not to mention savings on gasoline or diesel of up to “$800 per year” and an average savings of about “46 percent in annual maintenance costs”.  The U.S. Postal Service did its own study and “tested six pure electric vehicles in its fleet and found that their average maintenance costs were $0.122 per mile—about 54 percent of the average maintenance costs for the fleet’s conventional vehicles.” 
It should also be noted that you can charge your new all-electric vehicle using your home’s solar installation. “Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW photovoltaic (PV) system to generate that much power using about 150 to 300 square feet of space on your roof. Utility credits for the daytime solar power can offset the cost of charging the car at night.” 
Clean Tech cars have a ways to go before they are mainstream, but such great strides have been made in such a short amount of time, I believe we are closer to The Jetsons’ than we might think.
The Next Generation Green Tech Cars:
Jaguar Land Rover’s new flywheel hybrid tech vehicle.
For more information on electric and hybrid cars and rebates:
Mercedes S400 BlueHybrid, the first mass-produced car with a lithium-ion battery.
 “Electric Car Battery Costs, Don’t Believe What You Read” published May 6, 2010 on HybridCards.com
 “Electric Vehicles: Myth vs. Reality“, published February 16, 2011 on SierraClub.com
 Touchstone Energy Business Energy Advisor. “Getting Charged Up Over Electric Vehicles.”