Image: Jose Socrates, Carlos Tavares
Armando Franca  /  AP
Portugal’s Prime Minister Jose Socrates, 2nd right, and Nissan’s Vice President Carlos Tavares, right, look at a model of Nissan’s concept electric vehicle Pivo 2, in Lisbon.
updated 7/9/2008 12:02:19 PM ET 2008-07-09T16:02:19

Automakers Nissan and Renault will sell electric vehicles in Portugal in 2011 and the allied companies have partnered with the government in an attempt to create a national network of charging stations.

Nissan has said it will sell electric cars globally in 2012, but the technology is still being developed. On Wednesday, Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the French and Japanese automakers, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said they would work together to raise awareness about the vehicles and try to make them easier to fuel.

Nissan has aggressively pursued deals with cities and governments on electric vehicles, as soaring gas prices and worries about global warming make the green technology more appealing.

Tokyo-based Nissan Motor Co. and partner Renault SA have previously announced deals with Project Better Place, based in Palo Alto, Calif., which promotes electric vehicles, to mass market electric vehicles in Israel and Denmark in 2011.

While other car manufacturers concentrate on fuel cells and hybrids, Nissan is going all out on electric vehicles, promising to sell them globally in 2012, with the first models arriving in Japan and the U.S. in 2010.

“We are feeling more strongly than ever that we must speed up our development of electric vehicles,” said Nissan Senior Vice President Minoru Shinohara.

Nissan is also in talks with parking lot and railway companies to set up recharging stations, he told The Associated Press at the company’s Tokyo headquarters Wednesday.

The lack of charging stations has made electric cars impractical in the broader market. Skeptics say electric vehicles will stay niche for some time.

Combined with high costs and other technological hurdles, electric vehicles for the broader public are still experimental.

Proponents say tax breaks, preferential highways lanes and other incentives would boost the appeal.

“It’s still a very new technology and so much remains to be seen,” said Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst with Okasan Securities Co. “It’s unlikely people are suddenly going to switch in big numbers from gas-engine vehicles.”

Portugal is a global leader in promoting renewable energy, including wind and solar power.

“This agreement with Renault-Nissan will place Portugal also on the front line in terms of sustainable mobility with zero-emission vehicles,” Socrates said. “Promoting electric cars in Portugal will reduce our dependence on imported oil and will contribute to a cleaner environment.”

Shinohara said Japanese urbanites drive about 12 miles a day — so the limited range of electric vehicles isn’t a problem for daily grocery shopping and other errands.

Nissan has not yet given details of the electric vehicle it has in the works.

Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes Subaru cars, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plan to offer electric vehicles in Japan next year. Mitsubishi’s electric vehicle travels 99 miles on a single charge, while Subaru’s goes 50 miles.

Mitsubishi plans to sell its electric vehicle in Europe in 2010, while tests are planned for the U.S. for 2009. Subaru has not decided on overseas sales plans for its electric vehicle.

Masahiko Otsuka, president of Automotive Energy Supply Corp., a joint venture between Nissan and Japanese electronics maker NEC Corp. to produce batteries for electric vehicles, said Nissan has a history dating back to 1992 of testing lithium-ion batteries for cars.

Lithium-ion batteries are now more common in laptops and other gadgets but can pack more power than the kind of batteries in the gas-electric hybrids made by Toyota Motor Corp.

All major automakers are pushing new technology.

Honda Motor Co. is leasing a fuel-cell vehicle in California which emits only water.

U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. is developing an electric vehicle called the Chevrolet Volt, which it hopes to launch in 2010. Ford Motor Co. has a demonstration fleet of 20 plug-ins.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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