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June 17, 2010 at 2:39 PM

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Bellevue gets ready for electric cars

Posted by Katherine Long

Electric cars are coming, and Bellevue aims to be ready.

Earlier this week, the Bellevue City Council discussed ways the city can be prepared when the first wave of highway-ready plug-in vehicles hits the state late this year.

The greater Seattle area is one of seven regions that's been chosen to participate in the rollout of the Nissan Leaf, a fully electric car that will arrive in December. About 1,500 Washington residents have pre-ordered the car, expected to run about $25,000 after substantial federal discounts. A prototype of the Nissan Leaf was on display in Bellevue last year.

As part of the rollout, a federally-funded project called The EV Project will deliver nearly 15,000 residential and commercial chargers to 13 cities in five states and the District of Columbia.

The project's mission is to evaluate the use of electric vehicles and charging stations in places around the country with diverse geographies and climates. That information will be used to figure out how to make electric cars a practical option around the country.

In the central Puget Sound area, ECOtality expects to install 900 residential charging stations and 1,000 commercial stations, 150 of which will be on publicly-owned land, company officials say.

Another 45 fast chargers, which can charge a battery in about half an hour, rather than overnight, will also be allocated to the area.

In the next few weeks, the Bellevue council will consider land-use code amendments that address electric vehicle infrastructure. A 2009 state law requires cities such as Bellevue -- ones that border regional freeways and meet a population threshold -- to amend development regulations by July 1 to encourage the transition to electric vehicle use.

"We don't want to be a barrier to the market moving in this direction," said Sheida Sahandy, the city's chief environmental policy advisor.

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Meet the bloggers

Video | Get to know Bellevue Blog reporters Nicole Tsong and Katherine Long.