Dreamers, schemers and down-to-earth electric vehicle diehards shared the stage at the 12th annual International Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS-12) in California in December. Major automakers joined many would-be manufacturers at the conference.

Among vehicles making news at the conference was U.S. Electricar's Electrolite 2000, an electric urban delivery vehicle, which the company will build and market in Mexico City sometime early this year.

The light-weight steel chassis and composite body is powered by twin DC motors. Top speed is rated at 40 mph (64 km/h) and the range is 60 miles (96 km) per charge.

Other news from the conference include:

* Solectria Corp. of Massachusetts showed off its Sunrise, a 4-seat commuter car that goes into production in 1997. It has a 120-mile 192-km) range and will be priced at around $20,000.

* Peugeot may market an electric version of its 4-door 106 model that it is now selling in France. Price is expected to be around 12,000 plus $100 a month to lease a battery pack (see Tech Trends, p. 74).

* Toyota plans to introduce a version of its EV-50 concept electric vehicle late in 1997. The vehicle shares many parts with the compact 4-wheel-drive RAV-4 sport/ utility now sold in Japan. EV-50 has a range of about 100 miles (160 km) and a top speed of about 70 mph (I 12 km/h) with lead-acid batteries.

* Renaissance Cars Inc. offers the Tropica, a topless car with no wipers, radio, defroster or door locks. It's priced around $15,000.

* Electric Fuel Corp. of New York and Jerusalem will prepare more than 50 Mercedes light vans and pickups powered by zinc-air fuel packs for the German postal service and the German telephone system. If expanded trials prove successful, the agencies plan to jointly buy up to 40,000 vehicles. Zinc-air offers four times as much power per pound as a lead-acid batteries, but must be recharged by removing the zinc and having it reprocessed.

* Hydo-Quebec, the Canadian electric utility owned by the province of Qubec, has borrowed a turn-of-the-century idea from Ferdinand Porsche and developed an all-in-one automobile wheel and electric motor. First propotypes are promised in 1996. Hydro-Quebec says it motor/wheel is likely best suited to a 4-wheel-drive hybrid electric vehicle that uses a small internal-combustion engine to recharge its batteries.