Electric cars have come and gone – mostly due to high cost and a lack of committment from major automakers

But the success of hybrid autos – Porsche recently gave the green light on their $600,000 Boxster 918 Hybrid – has spurred development of a new generation of electric cars.

And now, the time for mass-produced electric vehicles has finally arrived.

This fall, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf will be available to the public.

What can we expect from these two pioneers?

First, don’t expect high performance form the Volt or the Leaf. These compact vehicles are modest at best.

Both cars are powered by batteries. The Leaf claims a driver can go 100 miles in their vehicle before having to recharge. The Volt boasts only a 40 mile range, but has a back up gas tank that can extend the distance to over 300 miles.

The cost for the new Volt has been pegged at a pricey $41,000. The Leaf should be lower – around $33,000. But federal rebates of $7,500 are available to alleviate the cost.

Also, the manufacturers realize that the public will be wary of such new technology. The life of the battery will be a major concern – and to address said concern, Chevrolet has announced the battery will have an eight years or 100,000 miles warranty.

Finally, to help spur sales to wary customers, Chevrolet is encouraging people to lease the vehicle rather than buy it – at $350 a month – with $2,500 up front – it is comparable to a regular car.

And leasing avoids the long term commitment many consumers will be worried about should the cars turn out to be less than satisfactory.

Who will be buying a Volt or a Leaf? Most likely upscale, ecologically-minded consumers who want a car for commuting to work.

The Volt and the Leaf are the vanguard of a new generation of autos. No matter what happens, electric cars are here to stay.