The nation's Big Three automakers say they're nearly ready for joint research on a battery for use in electrically powered vehicles.

General Motors Corp. last year displayed its Impact electric car, which has performance similar to a small car of today, going from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds.Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have displayed electrically powered minivans, which also are hamstrung by batteries.

Electric vehicles, along with those powered by reformulated gasoline or some other combustible fluid such as methanol or ethanol, are seen as ways to get around increasingly stringent clean-air legislation and tougher fuel-economy regulations, especially in California.

"Most of us are very anxious for it to happen," Chrysler engineering vice president Francois Castaing said Sunday of the joint research. "I'm confident it will come together."

GM spokesman Don Postma said the joint project began coming together in September after GM proposed the arrangement to the other two automakers. He said negotiations are likely to be completed in a few months.

Postma said development of the Impact, which could hit the market in the mid-1990s, does not depend on joint research.

"This research will be for future generations of electric cars," Postma said. "To expand the range of electric cars, we have to develop new technology."