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Mulling Detroit's electric futureWhile the big automakers still hope for a bailout from Congress, they are making plans for a future in which mass-market electric cars loom large. But first, they need to create an electric-charging infrastructure. On the CNET News Daily Debrief, Charles...
[ music ] ^m00:00:04 >> While the big automakers are still waiting for a bailout from congress, they are going ahead with plans for a future in which electric plays a big part. Welcome to the CNET News Daily Debrief, I'm Charles Cooper. And on a video hookup from Cambridge Massachusetts, CNET New's Martin LaMonica. Martin, this morning you have a piece up talking about the plans that Detroit is preparing in advance of going electric; pretty ambitious but you talk about a community outreach program that they're gonna need to follow through with. Detail what exactly we're looking at here. >> Martin LaMonica: It could be a variety of things, but the main purpose is, to just find the support of environment. A lot of it's on the policy side. They want places there where there are tax incentives to buy these cars, but also incentives to install charging pedestals because that's a key piece of it. And I think they just want to go to places where people are excited for this sort of thing. I should know, it's not just in the U. S. but it's really around the world. >> Charlie Cooper: And for the purposes of our audience, could you explain briefly what a charging pedestal is? >> Martin LaMonica: It's just a standalone machine... I guess sort of like an outdoor street light, but really not much smaller, where you can charge your car. There's a company called Coulomb Technologies in California that makes these and hopes to install some in San Jose, among other places. >> Charlie Cooper: And who is gonna pay for this? Is this the taxpayer or municipalities? >> Martin LaMonica: That's the big question. You know you see the automakers around the world signing deals with... often happens at the country level, in the sort of better place for example as deals with Portugal and Denmark, they have something in this; San Francisco Bay area, and Hawaii where they plan to set up these charging stations, not necessarily pedestals, but that would be part of it. And who pays for it is a big question. Another big question is what the world... >> Charlie Cooper: I'm gonna just stop you there. Better place is a start up managed by Shai Agassi, used to be number 2 at SAP. >> Martin LaMonica: That's right yeah, and they're sort of pushing for a different business model where you'd swap in batteries, but that's not gonna be everywhere obviously. So that's where the need for these pedestals, these charging stations, comes in. It could be in a parking lot, it could be at businesses where willing to have this at their offices to encourage people to drive plug in electric cars. Utilities are another big piece of the whole thing. They could create incentives to this sort of thing too. >> Charlie Cooper: Okay the Volt from General Motors, assuming General Motors is still with us, is not expected to hit the market until late 2010. Will the infrastructure, national infrastructure, be available at that point? >> Martin LaMonica: I don't think so. I think if you're talking... certainly if you want to buy, you're gonna be one of the first people to buy a Volt and plug it into your car outlet - that's fine, there isn't that technical hurtle. But if you're talking about... say you buy and electric car. The Volt has a big range, but say you have an electric car, the range is only 100 miles; maybe you're gonna want to be able to charge up when you're in the middle of town or something like that. So I think nationally that infrastructure's gonna take awhile to get there to have different charging stations, but in the near term certainly people can get by just charging at home. >> Charlie Cooper: Any indications that the incoming administration might be more amenable to helping out with the build out of electric infrastructure, charging infrastructure, ala what the Eisenhower administration did in the 1950's in building the national road system. >> Martin LaMonica: Well in the early proposals from the Obama administration, this one specific piece hasn't come up but they do want to get millions of plug in electric cars on the road quickly. And there is already a federal tax credit for purchasing these plug in electric cars based on the size of your battery. So the federal level, there's already been something done and certainly Obama and his administration has said that they intend to encourage this sort of electric vehicle use. But you have to see if it's a priority or not. >> Charlie Cooper: Okay. Thanks very much. On behalf of CNET News, I'm Charlie Cooper. [ music ]