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Denmark leads electric-car race

AN electric-car race is under way in Europe and countries are rushing out their plans for the future — each one more ambitious than the last — in an effort to prove who is the greenest of them all.

Spain aims to have a million electric or hybrid cars on the road by 2014 (though it hasn’t specified how many of each). Britain is trying to persuade Japanese automaker Nissan to make its Sunderland plant the European base for its little electric car the Leaf, and London plans to have 25 000 charging stations hooked up to the grid by 2015.
France has put big money into building a countrywide network of charging stations, as well as a plant to produce electric-car batteries. Not to be left out, Portugal is gearing up to be one of the first markets for Renault-Nissan’s electric cars in 2011.
One country, however, appears to be better prepared than the others: Denmark. The biggest Danish power company has partnered with a California start-up company, Better Place, to build a nationwide grid to support electric cars, composed of thousands of charging poles in towns and cities and service stations along highways where depleted batteries can be swapped for fresh ones on long trips.
Just as importantly, the Danish government is firmly behind the project. Late last year, it promised not to impose the normal vehicle-registration tax of 180% on electric cars until 2012 — a tax break of at least $40 000 for early buyers — and to provide drivers with free parking in downtown Copenhagen. Not only that, but the company has signed a deal with Renault to supply 100 000 cars — the company’s new Fluence ZE model — to Denmark and Israel by 2016. –– Time.

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