Miles Electric Vehicles is on track to roll out its XS500, an electric sedan capable of reaching highway speeds, in the fourth quarter of next year, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Boyd said at a conference in Las Vegas this week.

Boyd said he’s been driving the prototype in Santa Monica, where Miles is based.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever driven before, and I’ve been in the car industry for 25 years,” he said at a panel on electric cars at the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles Conference on Tuesday, adding that an affordable highway-speed sedan amounts to the “Holy Grail of electric vehicles.”

The company already has received more than 10,000 inquiries about buying the vehicle, expected to come with a price tag between $35,000 and $40,000. Miles won’t be able to produce that many in 2009, Boyd said, although he hopes to build up to between 30,000 and 50,000 vehicles in 2010.

According to the company's Web site, the sedan will reach speeds of more than 80 miles per hour, with a maximum range of more than 120 miles.

The sedan will be powered with a lithium-ion battery pack, Boyd said, adding that the company plans to offer lithium-ion batteries for its low-speed vehicles “soon.” Those vehicles will reach a maximum speed of 25 mph.

Miles also expects to introduce a low-speed van, called ZX40SV, in the first quarter of 2009, Boyd said.

The company plans to complete a prototype of the van on time to show it at trade shows this summer, he said, adding that the van is expected to price at about $18,000.

Miles was founded by environmental activist (and “mega-millionaire”) Miles Rubin and raised $15 million in February. The company already has a low-speed SUV based on a Daihatsu chassis, the ZX40S, and a low-speed work truck, the ZX40ST, available to fleets for about $18,000, minus fleet incentives.

The company expects to deliver about 3,000 of the vehicles, which launched in January, this year in the United States and in Europe, Boyd said.

Miles’ vehicles reduce pollution more than 95 percent compared with the cleanest gasoline-powered vehicles, and the operational cost of the vehicles is less than 3 cents per mile, with no oil changes or smog checks required, Boyd claimed.

With gasoline at $3.50 per gallon, gasoline vehicles need to reach 117 miles per gallon to match that cost, he said. And all the vehicles are expected to deliver a return on customers’ investments, in fuel and maintenance savings, in about three years, he said.

Miles counts Cal Poly Pomona, Stanford University, NASA and San Francisco International Airport among its fleet customers, and the firm is just finishing a test with the U.S. Air Force in Charleston, N.C. The Air Force is under orders to convert 35 percent of its fleet to alternative vehicles and has set a goal of buying low-speed electric vehicles this year, Boyd said.