Electric cars and the infrastructure needed to power them got a big push on several fronts last week with the announcements of new networks in two states.

The electric transportation company Better Place will enter the U.S. market and the San Francisco Bay Area in a partnership with the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. The company will invest about $1 billion on an electric car infrastructure meant to make the Bay Area the "Electric Vehicle Capital of the U.S."

The Palo Alto-based company expects that electric cars will be available to the mass market by 2012. Beginning in December, the partners will begin the permitting process to install EV charging outlets in parking lots, homes, and buildings throughout the Bay Area, coordinate regulations and standards across the region, establish government programs and incentives to promote the purchase of EVs and installation of charging outlets, and link the network to local air and transit quality programs.

Better Place has already embarked on similar projects in Australia, Israel and Denmark, the last of which are part of partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which will supply the cars in those countries.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance said last week it would join governments in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, to promote and develop EVs and a battery-charging network.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance also formed a partnership with the state of Oregon and Portland General Electric to establish an EV charging network. In exchange for supplying the cars, the state will create plans to promote the network while the Dept. of Transportation will operate and maintain it. Portland General Electric help building the network, and has already installed six charging stations in the Portland and Salem areas.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance also is pursuing initiatives in Portugal, Japan, France and the state of Tennessee.