Thursday, January 31, 2013

(BN) Nissan, NRG Plan U.S. Fast-Charger Network

(Bloomberg ) Nissan Motor Co. (7201), the biggest seller of electric cars, and NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) said they'll install 500 rapid-charge stations across the U.S. to help boost the appeal of rechargeable vehicles.

Nissan and NRG, the largest independent power producer, said yesterday at the Washington Auto Show that the stations will be put in place in major U.S. cities, including Washington, over the next 18 months. The project triples the number of such devices, able to recharge Nissan's Leaf hatchback to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes, they said in an e-mailed statement.

"Having a robust charging infrastructure helps build range confidence, which boosts interest in and use of electric vehicles," Brendan Jones, Nissan's director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy, said in the statement.

Nissan wants to increase sales of the Leaf after two years of lower demand than the Yokohama, Japan-based automaker predicted. The company sold 9,819 Leafs last year, less than half of Nissan's 20,000-unit goal.

Combined U.S. sales of models including Leaf and plug-in models including General Motors Co. (GM)'s Volt and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)'s Prius jumped 181 percent in 2012 to 50,188, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's chief executive officer, has predicted that electric cars will account for 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020.

There are currently about 160 U.S. rapid chargers, the companies said. Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG is spending about $150 million to set up chargers in the U.S., through its eVgo subsidiary.

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric-car maker led by Elon Musk, last year began building its own network of fast-chargers to allow owners of the company's Model S to eventually drive across the U.S. on electricity.

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