Dec 312010
Electric car charging
Image by Alan Trotter via Flickr

Some players in the market envision a Java-like platform to accelerate deployment and foster innovation.

A growing number of political leaders—from mayors on up to presidents and prime ministers —are taking up the electric vehicle (EV) torch, working on policies and incentives to spur widespread adoption of plug-in cars. In parts of the U.S., U.K., Japan, and elsewhere, initiatives to quickly develop networks of charging stations for the plug-in vehicles slated to roll out in 2011 and beyond are taking form—and running up against a key question on the road to a competitive green car marketplace: How do you accelerate deployment of today’s technology while remaining open to future innovations?

On some level, this question is about the familiar issue of how (and how much) government should play a role in free markets. But it’s also another example of how lessons from the history of computing can apply to cleantech innovations. According to the finance chief for London’s climate change program, Padmesh Shukla, Sun Microsystems’ Java platform—an ubiquitous system for software development for mobile devices, enterprise servers, and the Web—offers a model governments can use to craft guidelines for companies bidding on government-backed EV infrastructure projects.

Bottom line, Shukla said at a recent panel hosted by Think London, which works to attract direct investment in the city and help foreign companies set up business there, London wants to have EV infrastructure that looks more like Java, which software developers can use for free, than Microsoft’s proprietary technology. “It has to be an open platform,” Shukla said.

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