BMW i8 concept, a plug-in hybrid grand tourer expected to begin production in 2014.Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg NewsBMW i8 concept, a plug-in hybrid grand tourer expected to begin production in 2014.

Sunday’s Automobiles section takes the measure of purely electric and hybrid vehicles that are currently on sale or coming to market in the next couple of years.

Bradley Berman spent a week with the BMW ActiveE, a purely electric version of the 1 Series coupe that serves as a test platform for BMW’s electric vehicle program. By gutting the internal-combustion innards and packing the vacated spaces with 192 battery cells, BMW created a surprisingly dexterous and spirited machine, he writes, even though the new powertrain adds nearly 1,000 pounds to the car’s curb weight.

Lawrence Ulrich surveys the available plug-in offerings and looks forward to debuts from Fiat, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and other major automakers, as well as that of the highly anticipated, and long-delayed, Tesla Model S.

With so many variations on gas-electric powertrains, Lindsay Brooke compares competing hybrid technologies, noting their commonalities and stark differences. Check out the accompanying graphic to learn which systems have been embraced most enthusiastically by automakers.

And Daniel McDermon rides the 2012 Zero DS, a purely electric dual-sport motorcycle with significantly greater riding range than its 2010 incarnation.

Check out all the stories and the accompanying slide show, and share your thoughts on the present and future of plug-in passenger vehicles in the comments below.

By THE NEW YORK TIMES