Holy Electric Vehicle-Charging Network News!

The Los Angeles Auto Show is here, and the theme this year is shaping up to be: its all about the electric vehicle infrastructure. There are three announcements out already about initiatives to build out charging infrastructure in cities and states on the West Coast from the Renault-Nissan Alliance automakers, Better Place and startup Couloumb Technologies.

First up, to kick off the LA Auto Show, Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan and Renault, told attendees that Nissan will collaborate with the state of Oregon and utility Portland General Electric on an electric vehicle charging network. Nissan says it will make a supply of electric vehicles available to the state (no number named) and will help promote the charging network. The Oregon Department of Transportation will work on the specifications for the network and will find the suppliers to build the network. PGE is also working on the technology and has developed model charging station infrastructure that it has deployed in Portland and Salem.

Renault-Nissan is developing similar electric vehicle charging projects in Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and with French electric utility company EDF. Some of those deals include working with Silicon Valley’s startup Better Place and some do not.

But Better Place has its own announcement that it’s planning to make later on this afternoon. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is holding a press conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon which will discuss “the latest news” from electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place. We’re not sure on the details yet, but sources tell us the news will be really big.

Then there’s some smaller news out from electric vehicle charging startup Coulomb Technologies, which says it plans to build “dozens” of charging stations in the first quarter of 2009. Those stations will be powered by solar electric panels and will sell electricity for EVs as well as ethanol, biodiesel and gasoline. Coulomb says it will build these stations at new and existing service stations in Northern California cities and down Hwy. 99 and Hwy. 101, and Interstate 5 in California. The company says it has bigger plans to install “hundreds more” throughout California in 2009.

If Better Place is planning on building its electric vehicle network first in California — and also in Northern California cities and down the highways — then Coulomb’s stations could get overshadowed. Or perhaps the companies can team up somehow. We have to say, it’s exciting to see competition, as well as so much interest in building out the underlying infrastructure to get electric vehicle to work. As Google’s Eric Schmidt said this week, infrastructure is the platform upon which industries and wealth are created.

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