Building hundreds of quick-recharge power stations across the island nation is Japan's first step toward welcoming a new era of motoring. Expecting a rapid roll-out of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles beginning next year, the country is rapdily preparing to become a welcoming environment for electric-only driving.

A device developed by Tokyo Electric Power, one of Japan's biggest electric vehicle (EV) promoters, claims to be able to charge a car with enough power in just five minutes to cover 40km. Upping charge time to 10 minutes can deliver 60km worth of electricity, reports the Financial Times. That may not seem like much by the standards of petrol and diesel-powered cars, but for the short distances involved in many Japanese cities, that could be enough to get a person to work and home again at the end of the day on a single 'fill-up'.

The drive to build out the large number of charging stations isn't purely motivated by philanthropic concerns, however. The power company sees electric cars as a great way to sell electricity at night, when demand falls off due to the closure of many businesses and other primary electricity consumers. Keeping demand up allows prices to stay higher and helps absorb some of the excess capacity available, improving overall efficiency.

Japan itself is also backing the program, however, committing to 150 of the quick-charge units for the Kanagawa prefecture adjacent to Tokyo in order to provide the infrastructure for its upcoming EV test-run, which will be backed in part by Nissan, the EV provider.

The Nissan tie-in brings Renault and Shai Agassi's Project Better Place into the frame. That joint venture is one of the pioneering efforts to help build up infrastructure and perform research into the mass use of EVs in urban environments, with pilot programs setup in Denmark and Israel by 2012. Both Renault and Nissan are expected to use the technology developed in the Kanagawa test project. The Denki vehicle, pictured above, is a Cube-based Nissan EV concept first shown this year at the New York Auto Show.