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GM eyes San Francisco, Washington for Chevy Volt

Automaker is working with communities serving as "early adopter markets," which will create incentives to buy electric cars and build an infrastructure to support them.

General Motors on Tuesday released a "plan of action" for communities to prepare for plug-in electric cars, like its forthcoming Chevy Volt.

At the Washington Auto Show, GM said that it seeking to work with communities that are supportive of plug-in electric vehicles. It is already working with a group of utilities to ensure that utilities can handle the increased electrical load from charging electric vehicles.

A charging pedestal from Coulomb Technologies. Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

GM said that it working with the municipalities of San Francisco and the Washington, D.C., metro area as "early adopter markets" that will create incentives to buy electric cars and build an infrastructure to support them.

"Collaborating with communities such as San Francisco and metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C.--where there's already an interest in plug-in vehicles--is another important step toward raising customer awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of vehicles such as the Volt," said Ed Peper, GM North America vice president, Chevrolet, in a statement.

The move highlights the relative immaturity of electric vehicles.

Automakers are concerned that limited range and a lack of sufficient public charging infrastructure will frustrate early buyers. The Chevy Volt--and presumably other GM cars built with the same technology--are designed to go 40 miles on a charge and use a gas-powered generator for longer trips.

Other automakers, including Mitsubishi and start-up Miles Electric, are pitching all-electric cars as second cars for commuting and shorter trips.

Also, the hefty cost of batteries makes electric vehicles substantially more expensive than gasoline-only cars. There is already a tax credit for plug-in electric cars that can be up to $7,500 based on the size of the battery. The Chevy Volt, set for first release in late 2010, is expected to qualify for the maximum.

Industry association the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) this week released a set of policy recommendations, including tax breaks to promote battery manufacturing which could help lower component costs.