As the auto industry crisis continues in Washington after the impasse in Congress late last week, you could argue that the American car industry is paying a heavy price for ignoring the warning signs of a coming economic crunch and growing ecological consciousness.
Contrast the image of the ailing big three American car companies begging for a multi-billion bail-out to stay afloat with the news from Portugal, where Renault and Nissan have just signed an agreement to create a national network for “zero-emission” vehicles within three years.
You always have to add a pinch of salt to the claim that cars are “zero-emission,” because just because a car runs on electricity it does not mean it is clean. This said, Portugal is engaged in a large-scale programme to produce up to 60 per cent of its electricity from wind, sun, wave and other clean energy sources by 2020, so it is leading the way.
Under the agreement, finalised over the weekend, and reported in the Financial Times today, 320 vehicle charging locations will be operational across Portugal by 2010, growing to 1,300 by the end of 2011. By then Renault-Nissan will supply Portugal with electric cars, with a range of 160km.
Companies and motorists who buy electric cars will be exempt from road and other automobile taxes and individuals will qualify for income tax benefits of over $1000. The government will also require 20 per cent of public sector vehicle purchases to be zero-emission.
I wonder if this is the kind of economic stimulus package that Obama will come up with…