December 9, 2010 - EurActive - It's a bold
call, maybe even outlandish - the end of new gasoline cars by
2020. But if you listen to Shai Agassi, founder and chief executive
of Better Place, an Israeli company providing infrastructure for
electric cars, you might want to believe it.
In just three years, Better Place has raised $700 million to
build electric car networks in three countries - Israel, Denmark
and Australia - plus in a few other pilot cities.
The biggest obstacle, he says, is scepticism, especially on the
part of the auto industry.
"We're fighting a lot of pre-conceived notions," he told
EurActiv in an interview. "The biggest one of them is that change
doesn't happen. And suddenly somebody comes up and says we can make
a huge change in the way we build the car, the way we operate the
car and the way we price the car."
"And the industry says change is not going to happen."
Agassi admitted however that there is "scepticism in the
market". "We bought 100,000 cars from Renault [...] Most carmakers
are saying 'you're not going to find 100,000 people to take those
But for him, the best demonstration that electric cars can work
is what's being happening in Tokyo. "We've had taxis in Tokyo go 180 days
now, non-stop, day in day out. Taxis can drive for half a year:
there's not a car with worse driving patterns than taxis."
"If a taxi can work, anything can work."
'Not exclusive with Renault'
Better Place made headlines when it teamed up with
French car maker Renault in February 2008 to launch Israel's
first electric vehicles. The alliance aims to provide the necessary
conditions for the successful launch of electric vehicles in Israel
by 2011, with Better Place building an electric battery recharging
network across the country.
However, Agassi says, "we're not exclusive with Renault". "For
the first few years, both of us will rely on one another, but if it
works it will work with any car from any automaker that will make a
car to fit the model."
"Any type of car could get it. We license that to the carmakers
for free so they can build a car like that. There's no blockage for
anybody to get in."
Agassi comes back on the claims made by his company. First, that
electric cars will have a sufficient driving range and second, that
potential clients will find it attractive.
"The last claim was the controversial part - that the overall
cost of the entire infrastructure would be less than one week of
gasoline use in that country."
Agassi is confident that this will be the case in the countries
that will be covered by the Better Place network. Israel, he says,
uses $25 million of gasoline a day. The entire network cost in the
country is $150 million - six days worth of gasoline.
And in Holland, the cost of the Better Place network is
estimated at €60 million or one day's worth of gasoline.
To read the interview in full, please click