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The Paris Motor Show

David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, looks at the future of electric cars -- and America's role in it -- at the Paris auto show.

At the Paris Motor Show today, electric cars are everywhere.

Chevrolet is showing off the Volt, its plug-in hybrid due in U.S. showrooms this December. (Motown music blared as a Chevy rep told me all about the car’s performance.) Nissan is displaying the Leaf, its all-electric sedan scheduled to roll off assembly lines in Tennessee starting in 2012. Volvo has new plug-in models. So do Saab, Peugot and other European manufacturers. And as I walked through the gates in a huge crowd, the first paper put in my hands was a glossy newspaper describing the show under the headline “Un Mondial Electrique” (“An Electric World”).

And even though I’m a Michigan Wolverine, my favorite might have been the sleek all-electric “Buckeye Bullet” built by a team at Ohio State University that broke records going 320 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats in August.

I was in Paris to help kick off the Electric Vehicles Initiative, a global partnership announced this summer at the Clean Energy Ministerial hosted by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Experts from 15 countries – including representatives from national governments, cities, automobile and battery manufacturers, utility companies and more – met to discuss how we can work together to create global market momentum for electric vehicles. The meetings culminated with a public panel organized by the International Energy Agency, including Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, French Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and others. The panel was held – appropriately – right next to the track where Motor Show visitors can take more than a dozen new electric cars for test drives.

Fortunately, President Obama and Secretary Chu have helped put the United States on the road to global leadership in this rapidly growing industry. With Recovery Act funding, we have made an historic $2.85 billion investment in electric vehicles. We’re investing $2.0 billion in United States-based manufacturers to produce advanced vehicle batteries and drive train components,$400 million to purchase, test, and deploy different types of electric vehicles to test their viability in the marketplace, and$300 million in cost-share projects under the “Clean Cities” program. These investments are reducing our dependence on oil, cutting pollution and creating thousands of jobs, while building a foundation for even more job growth in the years ahead.

The world is moving forward – quickly – on 21st century electric vehicle technology. The United States can and must be a global leader in this industry in the years to come.