Electric Cars That Speed Ahead of Gas Guzzlers

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Ford (F), Chrysler, Toyota (TM) and General Motors might soon face increased competition from electric carmakers, whose custom cars offer more power and better performance than gas-powered vehicles.

Even worse for traditional automakers, these new electric muscle cars will be street legal and affordable for even people with average-car salaries.


Photo Gallery: Auto Show: Take a Look at Some Cars

The star here is Santee, Calif.-based SSI Racing. The two-person firm, with less than $250,000 in sales last year, was founded by software engineer and car nut Michael Kaide. His move to electric cars started in 2006, when he wanted a vehicle he could use for weekend drag races and his daily commute to work.

Kaide spent a year building himself his dream car: a Type 65 racer, which looks a lot like the Shelby classic racer and drives like one too. It can go from zero to 60 mph in as few as 2.9 seconds with 800 horsepower. It's racetrack fast, but street legal.

Kaide, who's attending the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, is getting ready to make 10 of these super-fast racers for real consumers. The SSI will cost $120,000 to start, which is about average for electric cars. The car, which might hit the market next year, will be able to ride in California's exclusive HOV lanes with just one passenger.

San Jose, Calif.-based Saba Motors is gearing its equally small car toward consumers who can't afford a $120,000 car. Chief Executive Simon Saba wants his pocket rocket to be the model of affordability and fun.

The Saba Roadster is cut from the classic roadster block, with two seats, an open cockpit and not much else. There's no roof, radio or operational doors. You get in and out by climbing over the side of the car.

Saba's simplicity adds to its fun factor. It goes from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 6 seconds, with a top speed of 105 mph.

Saba plans to mass produce the car and sell it for as little as $30,000. If he lands the necessary financing, he could be in medium-range production by the end of the year.

This new breed of electric car may prove its mettle this summer. Kaide expects electric-car racers to be allowed to enter the hollowed National Hot Rod Association Finals this year. In some categories, he believes his electric cars will be faster than gas-powered rivals.

"There is no way a gas-powered engine can compete in terms of smoothness and instantaneous power for drag racing," says Kaide.

Politics and green factor aside, if you're running gas, you are running slow. The age of the gas-powered muscle car is over.

-- Reported by Jonathan Blum in Detroit.

Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.

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