Recent Announcements Will Spark Electric Car Sales

by: Jeff Wilson

The last couple of days have given us major announcements of electric car infrastructure projects.

As the keynote speaker at the L.A. Auto Show, Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) CEO Carlos Ghosn announced a partnership with the Oregon Transportation Department and Portland General Electric to install charging stations around the state. Nissan will provide a fleet of electric vehicles to the state, and Oregon will offer a tax credit to buyers of electric vehicles.

The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose met with Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, an electric car infrastructure company. The mayors announced at the meeting that they will roll out policies in December to promote the purchase and use of electric cars in the Bay Area, such as the expediting of permits for the installation of charging stations. They are also hinting at tax incentives, although no details have been released. Better Place hopes to have the first round of charging infrastructure in place in 2010. Better Place's first two clients are Israel and Denmark, and a deal is pending with the state of Hawaii.

Last July, the city of San Jose signed a 2-year contract with Coulomb Technologies to develop charging stations around the city. Coulomb is also installing charging stations at many locations along Interstate 5 and highways 99, and 101 through California.

These projects will develop technologies and standards that will allow for rapid deployment of charging infrastructure in other locations. The timing is early enough that infrastructure can be put in place in many populated areas prior to the availability of large numbers of electric cars. This will encourage the purchase of electric cars, boding well for electric car manufacturers and battery manufacturers.

GM (NYSE:GM) is planning to have the Chevy Volt shipping in 2010. Mitsubishi (OTCPK:MMTOF) is planning to have the i MiEV electric vehicles in volume production starting in 2011, and Nissan and Toyota (NYSE:TM) are planning to have electric cars in volume production in 2012. Mercedes (DAI), Audi [VOWG:DE], BYD Company [BYD:KOSCOM], and BMW [XETRA:BMW.DE] have also announced plans for electric cars.

The battery manufacturers that stand to gain from increased car sales are A123 Systems, partly owned by General Electric (NYSE:GE), LG Chem [051910: KOSCOM], Electrovaya [TSE: ELF.TO], and Altair Nanotechnologies (NASDAQ:ALTI), and Continental AG (OTCPK:CTTAY). Nissan and BYD are both auto and battery manufacturers and will sell batteries to other auto makers.

Disclosure: No positions held.