San Diego Gas & Electric is preparing to launch an electric vehicle charging network in conjunction with Nissan’s all-electric LEAF vehicle. SDG&E is working with ECOtility, which received a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy last year to set up charging station infrastructure in San Diego and other major cities, according to utility customer innovations director Alex Kim. Up to 1,450 charging stations are expected in the San Diego area. The California Energy Commission also contributed to the project. Charging will be offered for free, according to Kim. The companies plan to put the stations in gradually as Nissan delivers LEAFs. They intend to collect data on use of the chargers. SDG&E wants to use the information to plan for a bigger number of electric vehicles, which state auto emissions standards eventually require, according to Kim. The company also says it wants to incorporate electric vehicle infrastructure as it builds a smart grid. The carmaker plans to send the first LEAFs to corporate and government automotive fleets and some preselected individuals before offering them to the general public in showrooms beginning in 2012.