width=345General Electric Co and Nissan Motor Co on Monday announced a three-year agreement to collectively research development of charging stations for electric vehicles.

Nissan will debut the electric Leaf hatchback later this year in Japan, the United States and Europe. The Leaf's batteries will allow it to have a 100-mile range on a full charge, Nissan says.

The two companies say the work will center on smart charging stations that would allow for communication with utility companies to ease strain on electric power grids. Eventually, car companies and utilities hope that vehicles can form a power storage source.

Together with Nissan, we will take a comprehensive look at what technologies will be needed in the car, on the grid, and at home or work to make smart charging a reality, said Mark Little, director of GE Global Research.

GE and Nissan said they will in the next few months identify specific projects for the new partnership.

Utility companies are working with home and business owners to install 220-volt charging stations what will charge electric vehicles more quickly than the conventional 110-volt outlets in most U.S. homes.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Maureen Bavdek)