Barack Obama promotes electric vehicles

President Barack Obama took a break from NATO meetings in Portugal and spent time on what’s become one of his favorite activities — promoting electric cars.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his fellow Portuguese, the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, had arrived at the summit in quiet, zero-emission electric cars.

"I’d like to underline the priority both our countries assign to renewable energy and electric vehicles," Socrates said, after meeting Obama.

Portugal is proud of the lead it has taken in introducing what it says is the world’s first national electric vehicle charging network, with 100 power outlets in 25 towns and plans to install 1,300 by next year.

Obama: "The prime minister’s leadership on electric cars will create new opportunities for American companies here in Portugal … and this is an example of what Portugal and America can achieve together."

After attending a meeting Saturday on Afghanistan, Obama checked out an Opel Ampera on display at the summit site. The electric vehicle with lithium ion batteries is made by a General Motors in Detroit and will start going on sale in Europe next year.

Obama slid into the driver’s seat and turned on the electric car. He noted how quiet it was and told reporters that the electric vehicles "are the future."

Obama has made growth of a U.S.-based electric vehicles lithium ion batteries a centerpiece of his economic and clean energy agenda. He has pledged to bring 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to U.S. roads by 2015.