I saw this in the Herald on the weekend – that’s not online, but this is. Israel is trying to implement a network to allow electric cars to be used across the country.
They have good reasons. For starters, not depending on their enemies for energy.
Given the size of the country, it just might work.
It is not the first time a government has tried to promote electric cars on a mass scale. A 1990 California mandate requiring automakers to sell zero-emissions vehicles famously flopped. But the Israeli attempt is far more sophisticated than anything that precedes it. It aligns policy makers and a major car company with an outfit prepared to build hundreds of thousands of electric charging stations across the country. In an interview with TIME, Israeli President Shimon Peres called the project, “an experimental lab, a pilot project, before it’s applied to other, bigger industrialized nations.”
Automaker Renault-Nissan will manufacture the cars and Better Place, a California start-up founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, will build the infrastructure, which may eventually consist of 500,000 charging points and up to 200 battery-exchange stations. A pilot involving a few dozen cars will start later this year in Tel Aviv. A few hundred vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2009, with production scaled to the mass market by 2011. On Jan. 13, Israel slashed the tax rate on cars powered by electricity to 10% in order to encourage consumers to buy the vehicles once they are available.
The idea to take Israel electric was born in a white paper that Agassi, an Israeli native who now lives in the United States, wrote as part of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders forum. Peres was impressed and encouraged Agassi to pursue the project as a stand-alone business, helping to introduce the software-industry executive to auto executives, including Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault-Nissan. The Japanese-French auto alliance has separately said that it will manufacture a hybrid by 2010 and an all-electric car by 2012.
Electric cars, which have existed for more than 100 years, are becoming all the rage — both GM and Toyota have said they will manufacture plug-in hybrids by 2010. But Agassi’s plan stands out because it focuses on the infrastructure for recharging cars instead of on the vehicles themselves.