now Better Place plans to provide recharging services and batteries for electric cars on Hawaii: Hawaii shifting to electric cars
Project Better Place is a California-based company founded by the Israeli-American entrepreneur Shai Agassi which promotes the mass deployment of electric vehicles. Israel is the first country that signed an agreement with Project Better Place and Renault-Nissan to build up a network of swap and recharging stations across the country and to produce electric cars to provide Israelis with an environmentally friendly and economical alternative to conventional transportation. Under the agreement, Project Better Place will build the electric recharge grid and provide the lithium-ion batteries which will be able to go about 125 miles per charge and the Franco-Japanese auto maker Renault-Nissan will provide the electric vehicles. At the swap stations, the batteries can be replaced to extend the range of the cars. Drivers in Israel will pay a monthly subscription which will be well below the average monthly gas bill and therefore, their cars will always be equipped with the latest and most-efficient batteries. A similar service will be launched in Denmark where off-shore wind turbines could provide most of the energy necessary.
Recently, Portugal announced that it started a partnership with Renault-Nissan to create a market for electric cars in Portugal which should help the country to reduce its total dependence on ever more expensive fossil fuel imports. A network of swap and recharging stations will be set up to provide a basis for the mass-deployment of electric cars in Portugal in 2011. Portugal could produce most of the energy necessary to provide the electricity from solar power. Nissan is in talks with authorities, railway and power companies to make deals to build charging stations across the countries to support their cars. Parking lots could be equipped with 230V sockets to enable commuters to recharge the batteries of their cars while they’re at work, etc. The Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates announced tax incentives and promotional programs to make the electric car an attractive alternative to conventional transportation. He said: “We want to increase Portugal’s autonomy in terms of energy, so that future generations can make their own decisions and we are not at the mercy of others, as we are today.”
Nissan expects that governments will support the technology and offer incentives in order to offset the high price of electric vehicles. Japan for instance announced to subsidize electric cars as the country is perfectly suitable for them. Japan has a high population density and most distances in urban areas are short. Besides, electric cars can help to reduce air pollution in mammoth cities like Tokyo decisively. And inevitably, electric cars will become much cheaper as soon as mass-production makes the production and marketing process more cost-effective.
Renault-Nissan’s electric cars could go on sale in the U.S. and in Japan as early as 2010 as competitors like Mitsubishi, Subaru and Chevrolet will launch their electric cars in 2009 and 2010 in Japan and in the U.S. It’s expected that as soon as the infrastructure is established, drivers will switch in large numbers from gasoline-driven cars to electric cars.
In my opinion, Project Better Place does a good job and helped to jump start the mass-availability of electric cars. Analysts of Deutsche Bank concluded that the company’s approach could be a “paradigm shift” that causes “massive disruption” to the auto industry, and which has “the potential to eliminate the gasoline engine altogether.” However, the infrastructure which will be installed in Israel, Denmark and Portugal is only suitable for electric vehicles from Nissan-Renault and batteries provided by Project Better Place. That ties them to the auto maker and prevents competition among several models of electric cars. Whereas in Japan an in the U.S., several electric cars from different car makers will be available in 2010 at the latest (one year earlier than in Portugal) and these cars won’t necessarily require a special infrastructure. The Chevy Volt can be plugged in at home to run 40 miles without using any gasoline and a conventional motor can be used to extend the range up to 640 miles if necessary. If electric cars are generally accepted in the U.S. and in the Japan and become a viable alternative to gasoline-driven cars, an adequate infrastructure will be set up and electric cars of all types will be able to be charged at public charging stations. I think that this is the better solution as it offers more flexibility and diversity. Besides, it avoids that one auto maker could monopolize the market of the entire country.