California and Oregon Build an Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles

November 26, 2008

With major automakers expected to roll out all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the coming years, California and Oregon are starting to build the electric charging infrastructure that will make these vehicles more practical to use. In California, the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland have announced a nine-step policy plan to encourage the use of electric vehicles in the Bay Area. The mayors will advance policies to expedite permits for installing charging outlets, create incentives for employers to install charging outlets, secure suitable 110-volt outlets in every government building for charging electric vehicles, develop a plan for installing 220-volt charging outlets throughout each city, and harmonize local regulations and standards to achieve regulatory consistency for electric vehicle companies. The mayors will also establish programs for buying large numbers of electric vehicles at discount rates for government and private fleets. See the press release from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The mayors also noted that Better Place, an electric vehicle infrastructure company, is entering the U.S. market in California, starting in the Bay Area. Better Place envisions a mixture of charging stations and battery exchange stations, which would quickly replace a car's depleted battery pack with a fresh battery pack, fully charged with renewable energy. However, the battery exchange plan depends on automakers adopting the lithium-ion battery pack that Better Place has developed and incorporating it into their vehicles in a way that allows it to be easily swapped out. Meanwhile, Nissan has announced plans to work with county and city governments in Sonoma County, northwest of the Bay Area, to promote electric vehicles and develop a charging network throughout the county. Nissan will supply electric vehicles to the county in support of that effort. In addition, Coulomb Technologies, Inc. has announced plans to install dozens of solar-powered charging stations at fuel stations throughout California, starting early next year. See Better Place's description of its electric car infrastructure plan, as well as the press releases from Nissan and Coulomb Technologies.

In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski announced on November 19 that Nissan would supply electric vehicles for the state's vehicle fleet starting in 2010. As in California, Nissan plans to work with the Oregon government to develop a network of electric vehicle charging stations. Portland General Electric has already installed six charging stations in the Portland and Salem metropolitan areas and plans to install six more. The state has also committed to develop specifications for charging stations and to set up model agreements with charging station suppliers for use by local governments and utilities. In addition, the governor is proposing to shift the state's tax credit for hybrids to plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. See the press releases from Governor Kulongoski and Nissan.