By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Though its efficacy is still hotly debated in engineering and scientific circles, the public is clearly fascinated by the plug-in electric car.

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With the car business soaring and fuel prices at a four-year low, hybrids sales are slack, while plug-in electric orders alone are up about 37 percent for 2014.

The Nissan Leaf, the best selling electric car in the world, had its best selling month ever in August delivering 3,186 units. Sales of the pioneering electric Chevrolet Volt, now in its fifth year with a new 2016 model due out in January, jumped about 500 units.

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The modest little BMW i3 electric seems to be catching a buzz from its six-figure gull-winged i8 big brother, with August sales over 1,000 units.

While Tesla S electric sedan sales are up, the company’s proposed $5 billion Gigafactory in Nevada is seen as a step away from the car business in favor of the battery business. Tesla already works with Mercedes and Toyota and is in talks with other carmakers.

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And for car racing fans, the new Formula E all-electric Grand Prix series premiered last week in Beijing.