Off and Humming

Driven by fear of draconian environmental laws, carmakers are finally getting serious about electric cars

Like the other white-gloved ladies in Detroit at the turn of the century, Clara Ford preferred to drive a clean and simple electric machine. Her husband Henry, however, had other ideas: his bouncy, backfiring, gas-powered Model T soon passed the gentler cars, leaving them in the dust of the Motor Age.

Ninety years later, Clara may yet have the last word. At their own tortoise pace, electric cars are regaining fans, including a few in powerful places. In an unprecedented collaboration, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are working to develop a new electric battery that would serve the U.S. industry --...

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