Better Place : an interesting project of hybrid cars

Even if oil prices decreased during the last weeks – as I write these lines they are around $120 at the NYMEX – there is no doubt they will soar again and reach $200 in the very next months.

Since our transportation habits are depending so much on this energy source, it is high time for our societies to change and shift to hybrid or full electric cars.

An Israeli investor, Shai Agassi, is banking on the latter with his project Better Place that may become a reality in his country but also in the UK, Portugal and Denmark.

Here is an extract of a New York Times article :

Agassi, age 40, is an Israeli software whiz kid who rose to the senior ranks of the German software giant SAP. He gave it all up in 2007 to help make Israel a model of how an entire country can get off gasoline and onto electric cars. He figured no country has a bigger interest in diminishing the value of Middle Eastern oil than Israel.

(…) Agassi’s plan, backed by Israel’s government, is to create a complete electric car “system” that will work much like a mobile-phone service “system,” only customers sign up for so many monthly miles, instead of minutes. Every subscriber will get a car, a battery and access to a national network of recharging outlets all across Israel — as well as garages that will swap your dead battery for a fresh one whenever needed.

His company, Better Place, and its impressive team would run the smart grid that charges the cars and is also contracting for enough new solar energy from Israeli companies — 2 gigawatts over 10 years — to power the whole fleet. “Israel will have the world’s first virtual oilfield in the Negev Desert,” said Agassi. His first 500 electric cars, built by Renault, will hit Israel’s roads next year.

Agassi is a passionate salesman for his vision. He could sell camels to Saudi Arabia. “Today in Europe, you pay $600 a month for gasoline,” he explained to me. “We have an electric car that will cost you $600 a month” — with all the electric fuel you need and when you don’t want the car any longer, just give it back. No extra charges and no CO2 emissions.

His goal, said Agassi, is to make his electric car “so cheap, so trivial, that you won’t even think of buying a gasoline car.” Once that happens, he added, your oil addiction will be over forever. You’ll be “off heroin,” he says, and “addicted to milk.”

This is as you can see a most interesting prospect. With electric cars all around in our towns there would be no more noise and no more greenhouse gases emissions. We could breeze and most importantly fight climate change without too much effects on our lifestyles.

I am very proud to see that Renault, a French company, is partaking in this huge project and wish M. Agassi and Renault all the success they can achieve.

One downside note : could this model be transfered to France or the United States and their million cars ? I doubt it, but if cities like Paris, New York or Los Angeles could use these cars, it would make these cities a much better place to live in.

For further reading, please check out :

(Many many thanks to Meryn for proposing me this as a topic.)

3 thoughts on “Better Place : an interesting project of hybrid cars”

  1. Agassi is truly an entrepreneur of these times.
    Personally I think that in the future we will see much less cars on the road, but for the cars that are still needed in the transportation mix it would be great if they’re coming “from Agassi”. I put that between quotes because it’s the idea what counts. Yet, it could turn out to be literary, because it seems that entrepreneurs who try to jump in later in new markets are much less successful. They would be wise to leave the cars to Agassi, and turn their attention to something new.

    We’ve got this covered.

  2. Thanks Meryn for your comment .

    I think cars won’t be running solely on oil in 2020 as Toyota decided to convert all its models to hybrid by this date.

    Other car makers are doing also research to get away from oil. For example Citroen, a French carmaker, released an interesting prototype called the Cactus that is also a hybrid.

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