Ecotality, Nissan to Hook Up Arizona Car Charging Network

Ecotality, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that makes fast electric vehicle chargers and energy storage, is moving up in the world. The firm has lined up a big-name partner, saying today that it will work with Nissan North America (s NSANY) to set up an electric vehicle charging network in Arizona’s Pima County, a deal that would include the state’s second-largest city, Tuscon.

Ecotality says it already has more than 5,100 charging stations installed around the country for vehicles including forklifts in warehouses and ground support vehicles at airports, but this looks like one of the company’s first deals for a publicly accessible charging network. And it comes at time when competition for car-charging infrastructure, as well as interest in electric vehicles, seems to be heating up.

The company didn’t release many details on the project, but it said Nissan has committed to making available an unspecified number of electric vehicles for public and private fleets in 2010, when Nissan’s first mass-produced electric vehicle is expected to roll off the assembly line. Ecotality will build and manage the charging stations and has launched what it calls its EV Micro-Climate program, which includes installing charging infrastructure at homes, stores, and public locations.

Drivers won’t not have to wait long to charge up their electric vehicles. The company said its Minit-Charger technology, which it bought from Edison International in December 2007, can recharge an electric vehicle in 10 to 15 minutes, although it’s unclear if Nissan’s highway-speed sedans will be able to charge up that fast.

Nissan has made a number of deals over the past year, through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, to set up car charging networks around the world, often teaming up with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Better Place. Earlier this week, Renault-Nissan said it would work on an electric car project in Yokohama, Japan, although the carmaker has yet to name a partner for the project.

Pima County follows other cities and counties in the U.S. that are angling to be early testers of EV charging networks. In San Francisco, where Better Place already has some big plans in the works, competitor Coulomb Technologies installed a small number of charging stations in February, following a similar small-scale installation by Coulomb in San Jose in January.