Better Place's $1 billion electric vehicle grid headed to Bay Area

Need another reason to live in America's other bastion of social liberalism and homelessness? How about a $1 billion electric vehicle re-charging infrastructure in the Bay Area? Palo Alto's Better Place is finally bringing its ambitious, city-wide electrical grid and battery exchange service home after staking plans to do the same in Israel, Denmark, and Australia. The plan just endorsed by the San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco Mayors (without coughing up any money), is expected to result in 250,000 charging ports (for topping off charges), 200 battery-swap stations (for trips over 100 miles), and a driver service center by 2012 -- network planing and permitting will begin in 2009 with infrastructure deployment set to kickoff in 2010. Here's how it works, customers will receive a discounted price on electric vehicles when they subscribe to drive a certain number of miles -- Better Place will own the batteries. Besides clearing the way of government bureaucracy, the mayors have agreed to offer incentives for companies that install the plug-in stations. Now get this, Better Place expects to lure electric vehicles from the usual suspects like Toyota, Renault-Nissan, and GM in addition to, get this, Tesla Motors. Oh yes. Almost makes us want to hug an Upper Haight, teenage, poser hippie. Almost.

Update: Coincidentally, Tesla is considering a small, swappable battery for its Model S sport sedan that, according to Elon Musk, could be changed "faster than you can fill a car with gasoline." Ah, synergy.

[Via San Jose Mercury News, Thanks KKH]