France Fast-Tracks Green Cars

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged 400 million euros in state support last week for development of hybrid cars and electric vehicles, while the Renault Nissan Alliance and PSA Peugeot Citroën struck separate deals to work with EDF.

The EDF Group is Europe's leading electricity producer and owner of the world's biggest fleet of electric vehicles.

Sarkozy's promise of the equivalent of $549 million in backing for research and development of green cars came on Thursday when he visited the Paris Auto Show, according to the Associated Press in a widely reported account.

The French president said he would urge other European countries to support their automakers in similar efforts and said that the sum he pledged would come from funds already set aside for environmental projects, the Associated Press reported.

His statements came on the day that key deals were announced between automakers and EDF.

Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Renault and Nissan, and Pierre Gadonneix, chairman and CEO of EDF, signed a memorandum of understanding to create an organization to install and manage infrastructure for charging electric vehicles. The group would then launch sales of zero-emission vehicles in France in 2011.

The Renault Nissan Alliance, founded in 1999, has struck similar partnerships with Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Tennessee and the Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo in Japan, said a statement from EDF and Renault.

EDF also formed a partnership with PSA Peugeot Citroën. The two are to support development and marketing of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, according to joint statements from the companies.

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