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Nissan Electrifying Japan — Where's Project Better Place?

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Nissan is taking a multiprong approach to its electric car strategy, signing on to supply cars and batteries for Project Better Place and separately announcing plans to deliver EVs to the U.S. and Japan by 2010. But according to this Globes Online report the auto giant is looking to build its own electric charging infrastructure in Japan, and is doing market research independently of Project Better Place.

Globes Online cites Japanese press reports that Nissan has already started work on the project with the University of Tokyo and private companies including battery and infrastructure firms and real estate brokers. But so far no mention of Project Better Place. It would not be a good sign for the young startup to be left out by its own automotive partner. Any kind of infrastructure play is a risky and expensive endeavor and it’s supposed to be Project Better Place’s bread and butter.

Japan could also actually be a really good fit for Project Better Place, given its densely populated urban centers. We are awaiting comment from Project Better Place on any plans it may have for the Japanese market.

Even if Japan doesn’t get on board, stateside, there is still great interest from leaders to bring Project Better Place to the American market. Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle has expressed interest in making Hawaii the first state to embrace an electrified auto fleet.

Meanwhile, yesterday San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he “want[s] to announce very soon” a plug-in electric program for the Bay Area. He added that the city is already planning on upgrading a quarter of its parking meters, some of which might be replaced with smart charging stations.

Whatever regions the company ends up electrifying, Agassi says that in his cellular-phone-service metaphor Project Better Place is AT&T, while Nissan is Nokia. But maybe Nissan wants to be Nokia and AT&T?