ECOtality and Nissan to get $100M from Department of Energy

Nissan Leaf

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The Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation (eTec), a subsidiary of ECOtality, Inc. and Nissan North America win a $99.8M grant from the Department of Energy to support the largest deployment of electrical vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure in U.S. history.

The project will use Nissan’s LEAF, an early stage zero-emission EV to study and develop the logistics and necessary scale behind the implementation of a national charging infrastructure, that will in turn, support large-scale EV deployment.  Initial stages of the project include the deployment of 5,000 EVs and EV charging stations in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.  Don Karner, President of eTec, sums up the industry e-coup:

By studying lessons learned from electric vehicle operations and the infrastructure supporting these first 5,000 vehicles, the Project enables the streamlined deployment of the next 5,000,000 electric vehicles…Nissan and over 40 government and industry partners, will enable this Project to successfully pave the way for electric transportation nationwide.

So what does this mean, really?  Yes – this is monumentally great for eTec, Nissan,  and hundreds of thousands of lithium-ion batteries.  What is really noteworthy about this joint venture between eTec and Nissan (and lost in the edited subtleties of the press release) is the scaled market transformation potential. By way of example, recall Sweden’s dramatic growth of FFVs (Flexible Fueled Vehicles), vehicles powered by ethanol and ethanol filling station infrastructure necessary to support the growth?  Demand and the determination of a few visionaries scaled the number of filling stations from 1 in 1995 to over 1200 as of 2008, which then enabled further distribution of the FFVs.

History is a great teacher. Collectively, the U.S. is making strong inroads in developing a new vehicle charging infrastructure to support widespread deployment of EVs. We can get there, and $100M is a pretty good start.

Image credit: http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/

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