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Reuters
Tokyo/Detroit, February 04, 2013
Are electric cars running out of juice again? Recent moves by Japan's two largest automakers suggest that the electric car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time - and may never be.

In the meantime, the attention of automotive executives in Asia, Europe and North America is beginning to swing toward an unusual but promising new alternate power source: hydrogen.

The reality is that consumers continue to show little interest in electric vehicles, or EVs, which dominated US streets in the first decade of the 20th century before being displaced by gasoline-powered cars.Despite the promise of "green" transportation - and despite billions of dollars in investment, most recently by Nissan Motor Co - EVs continue to be plagued by many problems that eventually scuttled electrics in the 1910s and more recently in the 1990s. Those include high cost, short driving range and lack of charging stations.

The public's lack of appetite for battery-powered cars persuaded the Obama administration last week to back away from its goal to put 1 million electric cars on US roads by 2015.

The tepid response to EVs also pushed Nissan's high-profile CEO, Carlos Ghosn, perhaps the industry's most outspoken proponent of battery cars, to announce in December a strategic shift to more mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids.