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NREL Partnering with Google to Promote Electric Cars

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The Golden-based National Renewable Energy Lab is partnering with internet search engine Google to promote the spread of electric car charging stations in Colorado and across the US. 

NREL will work with Google Maps to enhance an online data base showing drivers where charging stations are and the distances between them, among other things.  The number of "EV" charging stations is still relatively small - there are only about a dozen in the Denver metro area for instance For instance - but federal officials are hoping to change that. 

Along with the NREL and Google partnership announcement Tuesday, the Obama Administration also made available $5 million in grants to communities such as the Denver metro area that are looking to add or improve smart vehicle infrastructure. 

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the idea is to raise awareness about alternative modes of transportation, and ideally bring electric cars into the mainstream.

"Families are hurting right now with high gasoline prices," LaHood said in a conference call with reporters. "We know that gasoline prices account for the second most expensive item in family budgets."

As mayor of Denver, Governor John Hickenlooper led the city's participation in the "Clean Cities Program," which was also hailed Tuesday because it makes the city eligible for some of the $5 million in funds.  He  said alternative transportation like electric and bio-fuel powered cars and bike sharing will be key for an economic recovery.

"In Colorado we see that as we emerge from this recession mobility is going to be a big part," Hickenlooper said in the call. "We don’t want people to be stuck in traffic, we don’t want people polluting our air, we want to make sure that we keep as many dollars in household budgets as humanly possible."

Federal officials said the program helped save 24 million gallons of gas in the metro area from 2005 to 2009. The Obama Administration has ambitiously pledged to reduce US oil imports by a third by the year 2025. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.