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France Pledges Millions For Green Cars

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday earmarked $549 million in state support for the development of electric and hybrid cars.

PARIS (AP) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday pledged 400 million euros ($549 million) in state support for the development of electric and hybrid cars.

He said during a visit to the Paris Auto Show that the money will be destined "exclusively for the research and development of nonpolluting vehicles" over fours years -- and will come from funds already earmarked for environmental projects.

Sarkozy also said he will call upon other European countries to encourage auto makers to take loans from the European Investment Bank to develop lower emission vehicles. His comments came as French carmakers Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroen said they made separate agreements with energy company Electrite de France to develop and market electric and hybrid vehicles.

Renault's agreement is to jointly develop the infrastructure needed to recharge electric vehicles, allowing a vehicle launch in 2011. It is open to other "interested parties" and will start in France, the two companies said in a joint statement Thursday. The French government owns 85 percent of EdF and 15 percent of Renault.

Peugeot Citroen's partnership is aimed at supporting the development and future marketing of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the car maker said in a joint statement with EdF.

Although the demand for green cars is growing, uncertainties linger over the batteries needed to power them. Technological advances are needed to meet cost and weight requirements, and the infrastructure to recharge them is lacking.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and its Japanese sister carmaker Nissan, says the investments required to commercialize electric cars are "colossal."

State-controlled EdF, the owner of the world's biggest fleet of electric vehicles, is developing a "smart" charging terminal, currently being tested on Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius cars in Britain. The technology is designed to recognize the car, allowing drivers to be invoiced directly no matter where they charge their vehicles.

The Renault Nissan Alliance says it has partnership agreements in France, Israel, Denmark, Portugal, the U.S. state of Tennessee and the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, allowing it to commercialize electric cars from 2011.

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