In Houston And Tel Aviv, Cities Shift Toward An EV Future

February 9, 2010
nissan leaf ev 007

nissan leaf ev 007

Project Better Place and Renault-Nissan team up for EVs

Project Better Place and Renault-Nissan team up for EVs

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....

Better Place battery-swap demonstration

Better Place battery-swap demonstration

Though based in Palo Alto, California, Better Place has focused much of its energies outside the U.S. -- most recently in Denmark, Japan, and Israel, the latter of which is now home to an EV visitor center. The company plans to use the center to explain electric cars  to the general public, as well as Better Place's own battery-swapping concept. In addition to the typical brochures and videos, the center also features charge points, a battery-swap station, and a full test track with 11 Renault Lagunas, which have been converted from gas to electric power by Detroit's FEV Inc. Quin Garcia, a member of the Automotive Alliances team for Better Place, said, "I think this is a great example of Silicon Valley and Detroit cooperation.... We expect to have an ongoing relationship with FEV to leverage our respective expertises."

To be sure, Better Place has its share of cynics, and there have been no shortage of people raising legitimate questions about the company. But no matter whether the company sinks or swims, its efforts to educate the public about EVs and promote the development of charging infrastructure will likely reap benefits for EV manufacturers across the board.

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HOUSTON (Feb. 5, 2010) - The Renault-Nissan Alliance today announced that Nissan is entering into an agreement with the City of Houston to advance zero-emission mobility in the city by promoting the development of an electric-vehicle charging network and policies to support widespread adoptions of electric cars.

The announcement, made at the Houston stop of the Nissan LEAF Zero Emissions Tour, helps pave the way for the 2010 introduction of Nissan LEAF, the industry's first all-electric, zero-emission car designed for the mass market. Nissan already has a similar working agreement with Reliant Energy, of Houston, one of the largest competitive electricity providers in Texas. Today's announcement paves the way for public-private collaboration to foster electric-vehicle growth and development.

"For more than 100 years, Houston has pioneered advances in the energy field. With the same spirit of innovation, Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance are committed to lead the way in the field of zero-emission automotive technologies," said Carlos Tavares, Chairman, Nissan Americas. "We are the only global automaker bringing an electric-vehicle lineup to drivers on a mass-market scale and at an affordable price."

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.

Houston is one of 14 cities that have joined the Clinton Climate Initiative C40 in a commitment to make their cities more electric vehicle-friendly. To that end, the city intends to add 25 electric vehicles this year, bringing to 40 the total number of plug-in cars in the city's fleet.

"The discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 catapulted Houston to its current title of energy capital of the world," said Mayor Annisse Parker. "With ongoing research and development of wind, solar and electric fuel sources, we are on the cusp of becoming the alternative energy capital of the world. It is fitting that the city be a leader in increasing public awareness of environmentally friendly transportation alternatives like the LEAF."

Reliant Energy is working to make the broad adoption of electric vehicles simple by developing an ecosystem of charging infrastructure and services that makes fueling electric vehicles more convenient and affordable than the gasoline alternative.

"I want to congratulate the city of Houston and Nissan on today's agreement," said Jason Few, president of Reliant Energy. "This important step builds on the agreement we reached with Nissan late last year and is critical to the success of electric vehicles in Houston. We are working to create the infrastructure, services and a whole new way to buy power by the mile. We are working with our parent company, NRG Energy, towards the widespread electrification of transportation. We want to make Texas the electric-vehicle capital of the United States, starting in Houston."

Nissan, along with alliance partner Renault, is the only automaker committed to making all-electric vehicles available to the mass market on a global scale. Nissan LEAF, a five-passenger all-electric car, will be available for private and fleet customers. It is being launched in the United States, Japan and Europe in late 2010.

Nissan has spearheaded a holistic approach to zero-emission mobility by working with states, municipalities, utility companies and other partners, to prepare markets and infrastructure. Nissan has formed more than a dozen partnerships in the United States, in areas including State of Tennessee, the State of Oregon, Sonoma County, San Diego and San Francisco in California, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., Washington D.C., Seattle, with the City of Orlando and the Orlando Utilities Commission, with Progress Energy in Raleigh, N.C., and with Houston-based Reliant Energy. Nissan also is working with AeroVironment for the supply and installation of home charging stations, creating a one-stop shop for the Nissan LEAF and its charging equipment.

Through the 24-city Nissan LEAF Zero-Emission Tour, which stopped in Houston today, Nissan has been showcasing the electric vehicle and battery technology as well as the company's zero-emission mobility objectives.

Nissan North America
In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive design, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on the Nissan LEAF and zero-emission mobility can be found at

Renault-Nissan Alliance
The Renault-Nissan Alliance has begun zero-emission vehicle initiatives in Kanagawa Prefecture and Yokohama in Japan, as well as in Mexico, Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Monaco, the UK, France, Switzerland, Ireland, China and Hong Kong. The Renault-Nissan Alliance, founded in 1999, sold 6,090,304 vehicles in 2008. The objective of the Alliance is to rank among the world's top three vehicle manufacturers in terms of quality, technology and profitability.

Nissan Zero Emission Website

[Nissan, AutoNews]

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