By Steve Gelsi
Dow Jones Newswires
NEW YORK (Dow Jones) — Electric car players touted the virtues of their wares Thursday at the Cowen & Co. Clean Energy Conference as a lower-cost, less polluting alternative to burning fossil fuels, as they ready their entries for the U.S. auto market.
Daniel Elliott, CEO of Phoenix Motorcars, said the Ontario-based company will begin selling its electric, four-door pickup truck to the fleet market next year with a likely roll-out to the consumer market in 2009.
It’ll face competition from Toyota (TM) , which is developing its Prius model with more electric power technology, as well as other established car manufacturers and start-ups, such as Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley firm planning to sell a sports car in the U.S.
Phoenix Motorcars parked its red and black demonstration model outside the Parker Meridian Hotel. Under its hood was a large electric plug used to charge the vehicle, and other gear.
The vehicle runs on electric motors powered by batteries made by Altair Nanotechnologies.
The pickup truck boasts a driving range of 100 plus miles per charge. It can be refueled by traditional home electric power in about six hours, or in 10 minutes using an off-board high power 250 kilowatt charger.
Elliott said Phoenix is working with utilities such as PG&E (PCG) and American Electric Power (AEP) to provide the high powered chargers to fleet customers.
William Rankin, CEO of UQM Technology (UQM) , a maker of electric motors, said using electricity for cars makes sense because the distribution system is already in place, unlike alternative fuels such as hydrogen or ethanol.
It’s also much cheaper than fossil fuels. It costs about $3 worth of electricity to go 130 miles.
Rankin said the company has been working with the U.S. military on electric and diesel-powered Humvees, as well as a new vehicle dubbed the Crusher, a 21, 000 pound, six-wheeled unmanned vehicle that can scale five-foot walls.
Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI) CEO Alan Gotcher said he expects to see commercial garages offer electricity within the next two or three years to charge vehicles, with some placing solar panels on roof tops to power up cars during the work day.
Still, rolling out new technology in cars often hits glitches, including the emerging electric vehicles.
Phoenix faced a delay in getting certification for its electric car because of the type of plug it’s using to charge the cars, but company officials expect to resolve the issue in time for its launch next year.
Last month, reports surfaced that Toyota will delay the release of new models of hybrid cars because of safety concerns with new lithium-ion battery technology. The company now plans to use the new batteries in 2011 models instead of 2008 models, while continuing to rely on nickel-metal hydride batteries.