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USA: Alabama leaders support push for electric cars

Alabama may not have to look too far down the road to see a future filled with electric vehicles, and leaders met Friday in Montgomery make sure they’re ready.

As Chevrolet, Ford and Nissan showed off some of the latest technology in front of the Renaissance Hotel, Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, was one of those who spoke to a crowd of government, military and business representatives inside the Convention Center about how to move it forward. Wren said the state Legislature can serve as a partner in pushing the technology and will look to provide “appropriate incentives” to those who buy electric vehicles.

“Our state has become, in the last 15 or 16 years, a very automotive-friendly state,” Wren said. “We’re on the international map. With that goes the responsibility to develop appropriate fiscal and tax policy at a state level that encourages and fosters any kind of economic development, and that includes the electric vehicle area as a piece of Alabama’s and the nation’s energy portfolio.”

Phillip Wiedmeyer, president of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, said there are about 50,000 plug-in electric vehicles on U.S. roads today, covering 11 different models. But that will leap to 40 different models within three years. Many of them, including the all-electric Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf models on display at the event, cost less than $40,000 and can go 70 miles or more per charge.

The problem is making sure that people have plenty of places to charge them.

“You’ve got to have the infrastructure, and you’ve got to have the capability to charge the vehicle faster so that you can drive farther,” said Curtis Willis of Nissan Next. “That’s one of the things we’re working on is to be able to charge the vehicles faster. Of course, as battery technology increases and moves ahead, you’ll see vehicles get farther and farther in range.”

Officials at the conference distributed a workbook to help communities build the charging infrastructure to support the surge in electric cars, which Wiedmeyer said cost about one-third as much to operate as gas-fueled cars. It’s a switch that he said can have an effect on both the environment and the economy, here and elsewhere.
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