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Villaraigosa announces electric car infrastructure plan

Los Angeles is known by many names, among them “the quintessential city of sprawl,” “the congestion capital of the world” and the consistently top-ranked area with the country’s worst air pollution.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said it all himself, yet he still seems to believe that the city can serve another, simultaneous function: as the eco-friendly launchpad for electric cars.

By the time the vehicles are expected to appear in significant numbers in the market – late 2010 to early 2011 – Los Angeles and a coalition of partners are expected to have at least a skeleton infrastructure of charging stations ready to go, he said.

“Every year we read with consternation that we’re either No. 1 in traffic congestion or No. 1 in air pollution,” he said at the Los Angeles Convention Center, as workers inside set up exhibits and booths for the L.A. Auto Show, which starts Dec. 4. “We realized that we needed to find new, cleaner ways to travel.”

In a plan announced today, Villaraigosa said the city intends to update 400 existing stations around the region while adding 100 new ones. The permitting and inspection process for the stations will be steamlined, local building codes could be revised to encourage more charging options and utilities will develop a specialized customer service process to deal with electric vehicle owners.

Electric vehicle owners have plenty of incentives through the plan, which probably would give them tax rebates to construct home charging stations, as well as access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes and preferential or free parking.

According to the mayor, the plan would help lure battery and charging station manufacturers to Los Angeles while creating green jobs, attracting clean-tech investment, reducing dependence on foreign oil and making the city a quieter place.

Villaraigosa estimated that about $10 million would go to fund incentives of up to $2,000 each for the first 5,000 residential customers looking to build home chargers. Purchasing electric vehicles for the city fleet would run an additional $6 million.

Partners include Southern California Edison, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, Nissan, General Motors, Ford and the cities of Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Ana and Santa Monica.

-- Tiffany Hsu

 
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