AUTOS: Look, Ma, No Fumes!

Look, Ma, No Fumes!

Since the early 20th century, automakers have been tinkering half seriously with the idea of an electric car. Now, faced with potentially draconian air- quality regulations, automakers may be forced to start building such cars in earnest. Last week General Motors unveiled what it says is the most advanced electric car ever, a two-seater called the Impact.

Designed with the smoggy Los Angeles basin in mind, the battery-powered prototype accelerates from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 8 seconds -- faster than a BMW 325i -- and has a range of 120 miles between recharges. The Impact would cost about twice as...