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Nissan investing in EV charging stations in ‘more motivated’ Quebec

The major obstacle blocking sales of zero-emission vehicles is the driver's fear of getting stuck somewhere.

Can we make it to the ski hill and back?

Where can I re-fuel and how long will it take?

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Will I miss an important meeting because the car ran out of power?

Faced with a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma – which comes first, the cars then the widely available power supply, or the supply then the cars? – auto makers are beginning to subsidize supply infrastructure for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

At the Montreal Auto Show, Nissan Canada announced financial support of the Electric Circuit with a "significant investment" in 25 DC fast charging sites inside the Quebec road network over the next two years. Terms weren't announced.

At these sites, a depleted electric vehicle can be recharged to 80 per cent capacity in fewer than 30 minutes. Drivers are charged $10/hour, by the minute. They are to be installed at stops such as restaurants and convenience stores along highways 20, 10, 15, 50 and 35 toward Vermont (where many Quebecers have second homes).

"Growth will continue as public charging infrastructure continues to expand, making longer distance drives even easier," said Nissan Canada President Christian Meunier Thursday.

Nissan sees Quebec leading the way for EVs, just as Toyota sees California at the grassroots of the "hydrogen movement."

Meunier said Quebec is "more advanced than other provinces" and "more motivated" to develop the electric infrastructure. More than half of Nissan's sales of the Leaf EV occurred in Quebec in 2014.

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Meunier said the investment is to promote the entire industry's electric cars as a viable product. Only better infrastructure will mitigate consumers' psychological barriers, he said.

Likewise, Toyota Motor Sales is helping to finance the installation of hydrogen supply stations in California and New England. The California Energy Commission is providing $200-million in grants to build stations. Toyota, promoting its new hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai, provided a $7.2-million loan to help a company, First Element, with operations and maintenance. In the northeast, Toyota and Air Liquide are developing and supplying a phased-in network of 12 dedicated hydrogen stations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The company believes hydrogen is the way of the future, and recently made its fuel cell patents available free of charge to build fuel-cell vehicles.

"This will require a huge collaborative effort between government agencies and carmakers, academia and energy providers … to create momentum that leads to sustainability," Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota U.S.A., said recently at the Consumer Electronics Show.

By creating momentum, Carter forecasts global production volume of the Mirai would advance from 700 units this year to the "tens of thousands" in the 2020s.

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