2010: The Year the Electric Car Becomes a Reality?

Electric cars are zooming into a dealership near you.

Oct. 8, 2010 — -- This fall marks the beginning of the largest rollout of electric cars and the infrastructure to support them in U.S. history.

More than 20,000 charging stations across the nation will be deployed -- and that's just the beginning. If all goes as planned, American households will be transformed into gas stations of the future, electric car corridors will connect major cities and electric car-sharing programs will sprout up in cities across the nation.

Within a few years, every major automobile manufacturer will release a version of an electric car. It's all in the pipeline. Welcome to the electric-fueled future. If you believe the hype, it's about to change the way you drive.

Mark Perry, director of product planning for the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric, zero-emission car just given a Popular Mechanics "breakthrough award," stopped by "Good Morning America" to discuss the rollout.

"Fifty thousand units of the Nissan Leaf will be mass produced the first year," Perry said. "If you want to make a difference in oil demand and carbon emissions, you have to make a lot of cars."

The Nissan Leaf goes on sale in December with a price tag of roughly $25,000 after federal rebates. It is billed as the first electric car to be priced competitively with standard vehicles.

The Leaf will seat five. It comes with a battery warranty for eight years and 100,000 miles, and the ability to save you $2,000 a year on gas, assuming you travel 15,000 mile and get 25 miles per gallon.

The Leaf travels 100 miles per charge, which might be fine for the average consumer, because 80 percent travel less than 50 miles per day.

But for those that want to have more range, they have some help from the government. The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $400 million to electrify the transportation sector. It will help build an electric car infrastructure that will allow people to charge their electric cars as they travel. Within the next few years, some areas of the country will have more electric car charging stations than gas stations.

Electric Car Infrastructure

Of the $400 million DOE funds going towards electric car infrastructure, the largest chuck is a $99.8 million grant awarded to Ecotality North America, to embark on the EV Project. As part of the EV Project, ECOtality will deploy nearly 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities located in six states -- Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Tennessee and Texas -- and the District of Columbia.

Most of the charge stations will take a few hours to charge a vehicle, but some will be able to charge one in just 20 minutes. They'll locate the quick-charge spots along major highways.

"The purpose of the project is to create public infrastructure and to pull in data to understand people's charging habits so we can better deploy charging nationwide," Jonathan Read, CEO of ECOtality, told ABC News.

Drivers of the Nissan Leaf all-electric and Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid who qualify will receive a free residential charger and most if not all of the costs of installation. The catch is that they have to buy a car and volunteer to have their driving behavior monitored.

The way Read sees it, charging stations in the future will become viral, installed by thousands of retailers nationwide as a way to lure customers. Instead of 210,000 gas stations in the United States, people will see a diffusion of charge stations.

"As opposed to going where you charge, you will charge where you go," Read said.

Car Sharing Electrified

For those people that aren't ready to be guinea pigs or buy an electric car quite yet, Hertz, the world's largest general-use airport car-rental brand, will launch an electric vehicle rental option or "EV" share option in major cities across the nation later this year.

Hertz's car sharing arm, Connect by Hertz, has 20,000 members.

Jack Hidary, the man behind the Cash for Clunkers program and the Greening of the New York City taxi fleet, has been charged with leading the efforts toward launching the network of charging stations and electric cars by Hertz.

"It's the first time ever we are offering consumers the ability to rent or car share electric vehicles," Hidary said. "Anything from the Nissan Leaf to the Prius plug-in to a Chevy Volt to a Mitsubishi iMiEV -- so lots of choices. And they can both rent it or do something like car share, where they just use it for a few hours."

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