NY auto show previews Tesla’s competition with more than 40 electric cars

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A Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid model car is on display during the 116th New York International Auto Show.

It’s been 20 years since Toyota launched the Prius and Honda debuted the Insight, the first two mass-market hybrid vehicles. And it’s coming up on a decade since the first plug-based models, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, and the Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, hit showrooms.

Those early models created plenty of buzz but, with the exception of the Prius, generated relatively modest demand. It didn’t help that first-generation electrified vehicles were slow and stodgy and generally not much fun to drive, often taking more than 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour, noted Joe Phillippi, head of AutoTrends Consulting.

It also didn’t help that the first wave of BEVs could barely muster 100 miles per charge — and then only under optimum conditions. Worse, public charging facilities were limited, especially when it came to high-speed “Level 3” technology that could cut charging times to less than an hour.

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