Electric-car recharge stations planned for Ontario

Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:23pm EST
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - A California company plans to build a network of stations to recharge or swap electric car batteries in Ontario, a move that could expand the market for electric cars in Canada's most populous province.

Closely held Better Place plans to build an electric recharging grid that will sell power to motorists under a subscription service, similar to the model that cellphone companies use to sell airtime.

Consumers would have the option of exchanging their depleted batteries at the company's stations or recharging them at homes, businesses or parking lots equipped with the company's "power spots."

It would take drivers less time to pull into an exchange station and swap a depleted battery for a fresh one than it would take to fill a tank with gasoline, the company said on Thursday.

Better Place would need about three years to build the network, and the company plans to open a demonstration center in Toronto in about a year to educate the public and let them test-drive electric vehicles.

Better Place has partnered with Renault and Nissan to develop electric car infrastructure.

"This is an exciting step toward building a network in Ontario," Better Place Chief Executive Shai Agassi said in an interview. "It's a road that we started with a lot of prodding from the (Ontario) government."

Ontario, home of a sprawling parts industry and several auto-assembly plants, has been hard hit by the crisis in the sector. Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province will issue a study in May that looks at ways to encourage adoption of electric vehicles, including financial incentives for consumers and government purchasing policy.   Continued...