Utilities To Build Electric Car Infrastructure

DETROIT (AP) -- A trade group representing 70 percent of U.S. electric utilities has pledged to work aggressively to put charging stations and other infrastructure in place to support electric vehicles that soon will be in dealer showrooms.

Anthony Earley Jr., CEO of Detroit-area utility DTE Energy and chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, said utilities will develop charging systems, advanced meters, electricity pricing that gives customers an incentive to recharge at night, and a grid that interacts with cars.

"We need to have a national infrastructure so as you drive cross-country your vehicle is supported," Earley told reporters Wednesday at a plug-in electric vehicle conference in Detroit.

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said at the conference that the announcement is important because people don't want to make trade-offs from their current vehicles when electric cars come to market.

"Customers don't want to be panicked when they get in their car about where and when they can charge their vehicle," Ford told the conference.

In addition to developing standards for infrastructure to support the plug-in cars, the utilities have pledged to set up customer service networks to handle questions about the location of charging stations to rates or government incentive plans to buy electric vehicles.

Many automakers and other companies are working on plug-in electric designs, some of which have a small internal combustion engine on board to run the vehicle after the batteries are depleted. Several manufacturers have promised to bring the cars to showrooms by next year.

Panelists at the conference, run by the Center for Automotive Research, said research shows consumers are ready to accept plug-in vehicles to replace gasoline powered cars. But they may not be willing to pay a huge price premium over conventional vehicles.

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