BEAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK, NEW YORK—Woweeee! That’s the feeling I had squealing tires around the cones in an upstate New York state park, driving the only Nissan electric vehicle (EV) prototype on American soil.

 Nissan will likely be the first carmaker to launch a mass-market EV when it comes out with its as-yet-unnamed and unseen car next year. The lucky few who’ve seen the actual production car styling say it’s “really cool,” but we’ll have to accept their word for it. The car we’re driving looks a whole lot like a Nissan Cube because, well, that’s what it is—the drivetrain of the new EV shoehorned into the boxy Cube (similar to a Scion xB).

With its partner Renault, Nissan is very serious about EVs. Not only does it promise that its new car will get a “full-on rollout,” but it is going around the U.S. signing up cities, states and counties for EV charging networks. There could indeed be one of these cars in your future, and that’s why Nissan was showing them off in a 12-city tour (which culminated this week in Bear Mountain).

The new car will have a 100-mile range, and lithium-ion-manganese batteries. According to spokesman Mark Perry, it should also cost little more than a standard Nissan Altima. Consumers can also get a $7,500 federal tax rebate on the Nissan and its ilk. Perry said the EV is competitive in the market “unless gas goes below $1.10 a gallon.”

Nissan envisions widely available fast charging, at home, office and the big-box shopping paradise.

The car was indeed fun to drive. The prototype was right-hand drive (the norm in Japan), so it was a bit weird to drive anyway. But Nissan smoothed things out with built-in “creep” (inching forward when your foot is off the brake), just like a real car. And everyone liked the handling, which should be even better in a less-boxy shape.

Could Nissan have gotten more than 100-mile range out it? “Are you asking if we slid in another cell, would it go another five miles?” asked Perry. “Not really, because the extra weight would affect it. We have it optimized.” Someone else asked, “What kind of torque does it offer?” Perry replied, “You can burn rubber in this car pretty easily.” And so it proved. Take a look at the video.

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