photo: Todd Woody
SAN FRANCISCO – As Congress considers bailing out a U.S. auto industry damaged by its dependence on fossil fuel-hogging SUVs, San Francisco Bay Area leaders on Thursday unveiled plans for a $1 billion regional network of charging stations for electric cars.
Silicon Valley startup Better Place will construct the network, deploying thousands of chargers for electric cars on the streets of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. The cities will be linked by battery swapping stations so drivers can travel longer distances. Better Place, founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, previously struck deals with governments in Israel, Denmark and Australia to build electric car networks. This is the well-funded startup’s first move in the U.S. market. Construction on the Bay Area network will begin in 2010 with commercial rollout in 2012.
“This is the start of a regional effort to become the capital of electric vehicles in the United States,” proclaimed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at a press conferences at city hall attended by the mayors of San Jose and Oakland as well as representatives from state and federal environmental agencies.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger threw his support to the project and the the cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland have pledged to expedite permitting of Better Place charging stations, standardize regulations and offer incentives for employers to install chargers at workplaces.