Don’t look now, but the electric vehicle (EV) revolution has already started. Without much fanfare, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is building networks around the world that will finally make plug-in technology practical. It’s partnering with local and national governments to create convenient and standardized charging stations so that consumers can recharge at home, work and even while they’re out shopping.

The partners are a diverse lot, including Yokohama, Japan, the states of Tennessee and Oregon, Sonoma County, California, the ritzy principality of Monaco and a large utility company in France. In some locations, including Denmark and Israel, the Alliance is also working to provide EVs to Shai Agassi’s ambitious Better Place, which has a complete plan to sell consumers access to its charging grid and battery-swapping stations.

The Alliance’s most recent deal is with Portugal, and it’s a big one. There will be 320 charging locations in place by 2010, and 1,300 by 2011. Beginning in late 2010 and lasting for at least five years, EV purchasers will get income tax credits, and corporations incentives for fleet purchases. The Portuguese government is also mandating that 20 percent of public vehicle purchases be zero emission by 2011.

According to Simon Sproule, a Nissan spokesman based in Tokyo, the network will begin in Lisbon, and also include several smaller cities. “We will have EVs in volume by 2011,” he said. “Customers will be able to buy the cars, and if they live near Lisbon they’ll be able to access a fast-recharging network. We’ll also have battery swapping stations, so they can come in with depleted batteries and leave in 15 to 20 minutes with a fresh pack.”

The high-tech plan hooks the charging network into the cars’ navigation systems, so that when only 30 miles of travel are left the car can direct the driver to the nearest station with a free bay.

This agreement with Renault-Nissan will place Portugal on the front line in terms of sustainable mobility with zero-emission vehicles,” said Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates, who’s vowed to take the country off imported oil, at the announcement in Lisbon.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Nissan's electrifying plans
Nissan and Renault are not only building electric vehicles (EVs), they're also partnering to create charging stations and battery swapping networks for them.