No Place for Better Place in Nissan's Latest Electric Car Infrastructure Plan

Nissan Motor Co. (s NSANY) and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which signed on last year to supply cars and batteries for the Better Place network planned for Israel, has made yet another move to electrify the vehicle market. But if Nissan’s latest play — a partnership with Sempra Energy (s SRE) subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric — is a sign of deals to come between electricity companies and automakers, it leaves little room for go-between startups like Better Place, which aims to build out stations for charging and swapping car batteries, or Coulomb Technologies, which is focusing on charging stations.


In San Diego, as in Japan, Nissan plans to develop charging infrastructure for electric vehicles without an outside supplier. Rather, it plans to work directly with the utility, which will develop, operate and maintain charging infrastructure, a Sempra Energy spokesperson told us this afternoon. Nissan says it remains on track to deliver its first all-electric model — a five-passenger compact vehicle with a 100-mile range (the one pictured above is just a prototype) — to fleet operators late next year and to showrooms by 2012.

In addition to setting up charge points, the San Diego utility’s role in this new partnership will be drumming up business from regional local public and private fleet operators. Once the cars are on the road, Nissan will work with the utility to fine-tune the charging infrastructure. In exchange, besides getting an uptick in electricity demand, SDG&E expects to gather data on how electric vehicles will affect its grid and customer habits, and gain a real-world laboratory for its smart grid technologies.