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Mass use of electric cars four years away
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|by Fairfax - Friday, 24 October 2008
The mass use of electric cars moved a giant step closer to reality today, as power company AGL and finance group Macquarie Capital signed an agreement with international group Better Place to provide infrastructure to support the environmentally friendly vehicles.
Under the agreement, Macquarie will raise $1 billion to build an electric-vehicle network in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and AGL will power it with renewable energy.
Better Place, established by American entrepreneur Shai Agassi, has designed the infrastructure model, which is already being rolled out in Israel and Denmark.
Mr Agassi said that, under the agreement, by 2012 the three major Australian cities will each have a network of between 200,000 and 250,000 charge stations where drivers can recharge their electric cars.
These are likely to be at home, in businesses, car parks and shopping centres, he said.
In addition, there will be about 150 switch stations in each city and on major freeways, where electric batteries can be automatically replaced in drive-in stations similar to a car wash.
"We call it a ubiquitous charging network across the cities," Mr Agassi said in Melbourne today.
"It's a massive infrastructure project ... and that means new jobs for Australians."
Drivers will pay to recharge their cars through various power supply agreements, similar to mobile phone contracts, whereby consumers choose the rate that best reflects their car use.
Mr Agassi said today's deal was an integral step, as people would only buy electric vehicles if the infrastructure was in place to support them.
While Renault-Nissan is already manufacturing an electric-only car, Mr Agassi said he hoped today's agreement would encourage Australia's car manufacturers to develop their own versions.
The Victorian Government has established a working group to examine fuel-efficient vehicle technology with the state's car manufacturers, with a particular focus on developing the first generation of electric vehicles.
"The Victorian Government supports any initiative that will have positive outcomes in reducing emissions in the transport sector and I welcome this innovative approach to help make broad adoption of electric vehicles in Australia possible," Premier John Brumby said.
Better Place is also in discussion with federal and local governments about the rollout of the infrastructure.
Head of global development, Marshall Towe, said they hoped to strike an agreement that allowed them to install their infrastructure across the country without having to seek permission from each local area, similar to the deployment of the national cable network by Telstra.
Mr Agassi said it was up to Australian governments to determine how they would encourage consumers to turn to electric cars, such as through tax incentives or free power for the first purchasers.
"It's more a question for the Government for how quickly they want the tipping point [towards electric cars] to happen," he said.
"Every government decides what they want to do. We believe that Australia, looking at all the alternatives, will pick the right mix for Australia."
Mr Agassi said they would look at introducing the infrastructure in Adelaide and Perth after 2012.
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