Ecotality may be installing its first electric vehicle charging stations in its Arizona backyard, but it's also targeting the world's most populous nation – China.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based startup said it plans to build and install its car charging stations in China as part of a $15 million joint venture announced Monday with Shenzhen Goch Investment, Ltd.

The investment holding company will start off with a $2 million investment in Ecotality, matched by $500,000 from Ecotality's institutional shareholders, the companies announced. Separetely, Shenzhen Goch intends to put $10 million into a manufacturing facility and another $5 million into sales and marketing of Ecotality's systems. 

That could open up a big new market for Ecotality, though it's likely not the only electric car charging company eyeing China as a prize.

Most of the early plans to build those networks have been in North America and Europe (see Volvo and Vattenfall in Plug-In Joint Venture and Toyota's Plug-In Prius Heads for France).

But according to Pike Research, China is set to take the lead in electric transportation by 2015, with 47.8 percent of an expected $1.9 billion industry.

China is already a hot spot for making next-generation batteries for electric vehicles, and Chinese automakers SAIC Motor Corp. and BYD have electric vehicles in the works (see SAIC Accelerates in Chinese Electric-Car Market).

China is also seen as an attractive manufacturing location for foreign electric automakers looking for cheap labor and potential access to local markets (see All-Electric Car From U.S.-China Alliance to Arrive in 2010). Companies targeting the electric scooter and motorcycle market have also shown interest (see High-Tech Lead-Acid Batteries for China's Electric Scooters).

The Chinese government in September announced plans to build car-charging stations throughout large cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.

How Ecotality and Shenzhen Goch's plans will play out in relation to the growth of China's electric vehicle market remains to be seen. Ecotality has just begun in earnest its plans for on-the-ground charging networks, although it has been working on electric vehicle charging for more than a decade.

In March, it announced plans to build a network of its car charging stations on roadways between the Arizona cities of Phoenix and Tucson in partnership with Nissan (see Ecotality and Nissan Team on EV Charging Tech and Green Light post).

Nissan is also helping the Chinese government plan ways to popularize electric vehicles through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, by the way. It's something Nissan also is doing in Japan, Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Monaco, France, Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States (see Green Light post).

Nissan also has a joint venture with Chinese carmaker Dongfeng Motor Group Co., and plans to start selling electric cars in China by 2012. Monday's announcement didn't mention whether Ecotality's efforts in China would be linked with Nissan, however.

Ecotality, through its subsidiary Electric Transportation Engineering Corp., also is working on a charging network plan with Canadian utility BC Hydro. And last summer it joined in a demonstration project with charging software developer V2Green, which was later bought by smart grid software startup GridPoint (see Prepping for Plug-Ins to Hit the Grid).

Ecotality's fast-charging system, which it claims can charge a car in 10 minutes or so, comes from Edison Minit-Charger, which it bought for $3 million in 2007. It also spent $3 million that year to acquire Innergy Power Corp. which makes batteries and solar-powered chargers (see Ecotality's Buying Spree Continues).

Meanwhile, electric car charging startup Better Place is hoping to bring its alternative model of swapping depleted batteries with charged ones to roadways around the world.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup has deals to deploy its networks of charging and battery-swapping stations in Israel, Denmark, Australia, Canada's Ontario province, Hawaii and California's Bay Area (see Better Place Grabs €103M, Names New Danish CEO). It demonstrated a test battery swapping station in Japan in May.

Campbell, Calif.-based startup Coulomb Technologies has installed a few of its own charging stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek and Sonoma County. The stations are part of a plan to bring about 40 charging stations to the state this year. It also has plans to install them in Chicago, Oregon, Belgium and Amsterdam (see Green Light post and Coulomb Bags $3.75M for Electric-Car Charging).

And then there are a host of projects investigating ways to integrate car charging stations with the power grid (see A V2G Test: Pool Electric Cars for Grid Needs).