San Francisco Bay to be electric car capital
Posted: 24 November 2008
Officials in California have unveiled ambitious plans to turn the San Francisco Bay area - home to 7.6 million people - into one of the world's leading centres for electric vehicles.
If it succeeds, the strategy will see billions of dollars poured into a power infrastructure that will turn the region away from fossil fuels and persuade millions of people to switch to green transport technology.
The plan, which will see the bay area become the first region of California to switch its transport systems entirely away from traditional fuels, is being supported by local government as well as the state's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Globally, cars generate about 20% of the world's output of carbon dioxide and California's cars account for 40% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing around 1m petrol cars with electric cars by 2015, as is proposed under the new plans, will make a big difference.
At least $1bn is expected to be spent on improving green transport infrastructure to make the bay area - encompassing the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, as well as Silicon Valley - the leading centre for electric vehicles in America, and potentially around the world.
The electric transportation company Better Place will build a network of kerbside charging points across cities in the area and create the equivalent of filling stations, where electric car owners will be able to replace their flat batteries for fully charged ones. With a full charge on one of Better Place's batteries, a typical car will be able to travel 100 miles, ideal for commuting around urban areas.
The local government will also work to harmonise standards across the region so that drivers of electric vehicles can travel the length and breadth of the bay area without worrying about finding the right kind of charging station.
Most users of the Better Place system would pay a monthly subscription for unlimited access to the company's services. Visitors with electric cars could also use the charging points for a one-off fee.
"You can plug in any car," said Jason Wolf, the California business manager at Better Place. "In California, everyone who's bought Teslas, everyone who has bought plug-in hybrids or electric cars that are not in tight relationship with us, will be able to plug into our network."
Speaking at the launch yesterday, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, said: "If we're going to get serious about advancing climate-action plans, we've got to get serious about getting into the business of alternative transportation."
California, the world's eighth largest economy, has some of the most progressive climate-change legislation. The state aims to reduce greenhouse gas levels to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The plans will put California on a footing with other countries leading the attempt to introduce electric cars, including Israel, Denmark and Australia. Last month, the Britain pledged Â£100m to speed the commercial introduction of electric and low-carbon road transport to the country.
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