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Brand New Alfa Romeo

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Tony O'Kane | Jul 1, 2009

NOT TOO LONG AGO hydrogen was the flavour du jour of the alternative energy movement, with most of the world's major carmakers scrambling to establish their own experimental hydrogen car programs.

Now the tables have turned, and the humble electric motor - which ironically was more popular than the internal combustion engine before the widespread discovery of oil - is the new darling of the green motoring scene.

The Portuguese Government has announced that it will be accelerating its embrace of emissions-free electric cars, and will establish around 1300 public charging stations around the country in its first big roll-out of EV-compatible transport infrastructure.

EV charging plug

Portugal claims that up to 43 percent of the country's electricity demands can be met by domestically-produced renewable energy, and is currently in the process of reinventing itself as a leader in the production of green energy.

The move to build 1300 charging stations is one designed to encourage Portugeuse citzens to adopt battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which should help lower the small nation's dependence on imported fuels. Tax breaks and special parking privileges will also be introduced to lure motorists away from fuel-burning vehicles.

smart fortwo ed

Five companies will handle the construction of the charging station network, and sites will be spread between existing petrol stations, shopping centres and select parking spots. When completed, users will be able to opt for a slow recharge time of around eight hours or a faster charge taking just 30 minutes. The cost for using the system has yet to be determined.

But the 1300 stations will just be the first step. The government estimates that as many as 180,000 electric-powered cars will be roaming Portugal's roads by 2020, and that around 25,000 charging stations will be there to cater to them.

It's an ambitious plan, but with governments and automakers slowly backing away from the once-fashionable hydrogen fuel cell and quite literally putting their money behind plug-in electric vehicles, it looks like Portugal is on the right path.

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