Project Better Place and Renault-Nissan team up for EVsEnlarge Photo
Electric vehicles have been discussed for decades, but it wasn't until the mid-aughts of this century that EVs gained traction within the broader auto industry. Today, nearly every automaker on the planet has some form of battery-powered vehicle on the drawing board, but research and development is only half the battle for manufacturers. To ensure widespread adoption of these new-tech vehicles, the industry has to (1) make EVs affordable and (2) provide an EV charging/support infrastructure that's nearly identical to the one drivers currently use for their combustion vehicles.
Item #1 will happen over time, as economies of scale and other factors force a drop in EV production costs. Item #2 is a bigger hurdle; it will take more time to overcome, and it will certainly require the help of companies outside today's auto industry. However, as news from two major cities indicates, the problem is gradually being addressed.
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The Renault-Nissan Alliance has inked deals with cities around the globe to develop EV charging infrastructure, but perhaps none of those agreements has been as important or symbolic as the one recently signed with the city of Houston, Texas. The agreement also involves local utility company Reliant Energy in the planning and deployment of charge points. Here's a bit from the release, which we've pasted in full below:
As part of the agreement, Nissan and the City of Houston, along with Reliant Energy, will develop plans to promote a charging infrastructure for electric cars that encourages home and workplace charging, as well as a public-charging infrastructure. The partners will work to coordinate the establishment of policies and help streamline charging infrastructure deployment. Nissan also has agreed to make available a supply of electric vehicles to the City of Houston and in and around the metropolitan area.
This partnership is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that Houston is the heart of Big Oil and is also situated in a generally conservative state. For a city of Houston's size and prominence to sign onto such an eco-conscious initiative -- one that runs counter to much of the oil industry -- well, that's a significant statement.
Of course, cynics (including many here at TCC) are quick to point out that today's petrocrats are tomorrow's electrocrats; the energy industry isn't especially green, it's just looking for its next profit center. Critics will also note that the plan offers little in the way of concrete details, except for adding a handful of EVs to Houston's tiny plug-in fleet, enlarging it from 15 to 40. And of course, we all know that Nissan has a not-so-secret interest in the success of such infrastructure initiatives, since the company is about to launch its own EV, the 2011 Nissan Leaf.
That said, someone has to lead the charge (no pun intended), and the Renault-Nissan Alliance has been very aggressive on the infrastructure front -- probably moreso than any other company, with the possible exception of the Alliance's frequent partner, Better Place....