Bay Area mayors endorse $1 billion plan for electric cars

A Palo Alto start-up with powerful backing on Thursday unveiled an ambitious $1 billion plan to help make the Bay Area the nation’s electric-car capital.

Endorsed by all three of the Bay Area’s big city mayors, the plan would provide the re-charging infrastructure that must be in place before most consumers would consider buying or leasing an electric car.

Better Place, headed by former high-tech executive Shai Agassi, plans to install about 250,000 charging ports, 200 battery-exchange stations and a control center to service Bay Area electric car drivers. The goal is to have most of the system in place by 2012.

“We need to put together a new industry, and it needs to scale very fast,” Agassi said at a press conference in San Francisco. He was flanked by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed as well as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Agassi’s business plan is to distribute electric vehicles much the way telecoms distribute cell-phones. Customers will subscribe to drive a certain number of miles and get an electric vehicle at a discounted price. Better Place will own the battery.

“We buy batteries and clean electricity and we sell miles,” he said.

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