Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Better Place and the Ontario government said Thursday that they'll launch a pilot project to bring electric car battery-replacement and recharging stations to the Canadian province.

It's the first Canadian project for Better Place, which has so far laid plans to bring its charging networks to Israel, Denmark, Australia, Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Better Place will set up an electric car demonstration center in Toronto and develop a timeline for building the Ontario network, the company said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government said it expects to release in May a plan to speed up the introduction of electric vehicles. It will include incentives to boost the purchase of electric vehicles, procurement policies to speed government adoption of electric vehicles into fleet services and an education and promotion campaign.

Ontario also said it plans to power Better Place's network with renewable electricity provided by Bullfrog Power. The province plans to end its use of coal-fired power generation by 2014.

In November, Better Place announced a $1 billion plan to bring electric car charging stations to the San Francisco Bay Area, its first project in the United States (see Better Place to Charge Up California).

In December it said it would work with utility Hawaiian Electric to build a network for the island state (see to-hawaii-5298.html">Better Place Goes to Hawaii), and in October announced a plan with Australian utility AGL Energy the Macquarie Capital Group to raise $670 million to deploy a network in Australia.

The company has a partnership with Nissan-Renault to launch cars and its charging station networks in Denmark and Israel (see Bumpy Road Ahead for Project Better Place? and Sci-fi Inspired Vehicle to Hit California Roads). Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi has said he's open to working with other carmakers as well.

Whether Better Place's model – offering electric vehicle owners the ability to swap out depleted batteries for charged-up batteries – will fare well is open to question. Some electric vehicle backers have said that fast-charging batteries is a better way to go (see Electric-Car Firms Push Alternative to Project Better Place's Idea).

Auto-making giants and startups alike are pushing a variety of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as a way to cut down on oil consumption (see Toyota to Build All-electric Car by 2012, Tesla Spiffs Up Roadster; Chrysler Touts All-Electric Sports Car and Reva Plans to Launch L-Ion Battery-Powered Car in Europe).

But with the economy in a tailspin and car sales in steep decline – and with financing for electric vehicle startups drying up – moving those electric vehicle plans forward could be a challenge (see Showing Off Green Cars Amid Economic Gloom and Electric Car Woes: Aptera Delays, Odyne Dies and Battery Makers Seek Loans).