Now this is an incredible story about the potential massive revolution that will be made possible by the extreme passion of a very few people. Exciting in the sheer magnitude of its ambition and fact that if it happens, it will genuinely be one of the greatest revolutions in modern time, and the man that is going to make it happen will surely be one of the most influential men of their time. Maybe you already know of Shai Agassi or Better Place, the company that he founded. If not, I sure hope that soon we all will. He has an idea that could just make electric cars a practical reality, not just in 20 years time, but within the next few years. The best thing about his business idea Better Place, is that it is actually becoming reality. Read the full AMAZING article on Wired.
It is a long article and to help all you time starved people I wrote a brief synopsis. Read it, and then you will be inspired to read the main article, and then keep on reading!!
Shai Agassi seems overcomes the major hurdles in making an electric car a reality. Car costs, limitations of battery technology, and investment in infrastructure. While many of the technologies and ideas are not new, he manages to put together solutions to complex problems and interestingly he proposes to apply to the motor and energy industry a similar business model to the mobile phone and telecoms industry, where technology is made accessible at low costs by being subsidised over the duration of a long term contract.
By demonstrating a high potential for profitability he has been able to get major investors on-board. Where easy money is to be made, even the seemingly impossible can happen. In just 2 short years he can count countries, major players in the car industry and even Israel’s largest oil importer is one of his biggest backers and has raised over $1 Billion in investment capital.
Here’s how they will make money.
An electric car costs significantly less than a petrol car to power, and maintain. Lets say it costs €2000 to fuel a petrol car per year, yet it would only cost €800 to use electricity. Betterplace proposes to exploit this difference in energy costs by providing such a good refueling service that it would be able to resell electric energy to the consumer a premium, while remaining extremely appealing as it would still cost a lot less than running a normal car. Do I care that the electricity for my car cost more than for my TV, when I buy it packaged with access to a network of refueling stations, replacement batteries, useful software etc, when I am saving €1,000’s in the process?
He has the right partners on board, and created a win win situation for all the important players.
Car manufacturers - are in crisis and need to invest in improving their future. He has Nissan/Renault onboard. They don’t want the hassle of selling battery technology they know nothing about. This could make them the biggest producers in a rapidly growing market. Oil barrons - they don’t care if they will make more money selling electricity than oil. He got the heavyweight players onboard. People that had the power to snuff out the idea.
Countries - Many don’t want to be oil dependent, others need to reduce emissions significantly. Governments that get behind projects really help mak things happen!
So if people are making money, that is one important box ticker. But this is why it can happen…
Cars are cheaper - Possibly Free!
He removes the battery from the car buying process. The battery is not owned by the car driver, but is leased as part of an innovative fueling service. The electric car without battery is significantly cheaper than a petrol car, and is much easier and cheaper to maintain. So it has an immediate appeal to a consumer, and car manufacturers are happy doing what they do best. The fueling becomes packaged as a fueling serivce that you subscribe to. The cost of the car in full or in part can be subsidised over the duration of a long term contract, meaning that some cars may even be offered for free, much as many mobile phones are offered free if you sign a two year traffic contract. Governmental support will also ensure tax breaks and incentives.
Cars can drive as far as a normal cars
Electric cars do not have the same autonomy of normal cars, as the batteries only last 50 - 100km. So to resolve this issue they propose that owners can recharge at home, but if they need to travel further than the autonomy of the battery, then they simply pull into a ‘fueling station’, where the battery is automatically removed and replaced with a charged battery, without the driver needing to exist the car. So not dissimilar to refueling a petrol car, but a little less dirty. You will subscribe to an innovative and technology driven service. You tell your car where you want to go, and if there is not enough power in the battery, it will tell you where you need to stop to change the battery.
It is being rolled out at country wide levels in two countries.
Massive trials are starting in Israel and Denmark. Israel has the desire (more than others) to not be dependent on surrounding oil producing countries. To reduce oil imports by just 50% would be a big finger up, and improve the economy. Denmark needs to radically reduce emissions and sees this as a simple way to do so. Both are small countries, in which people drive relatively short distances, and would be less reluctant to own an electric car.
It is ecological - and solves another problem
As they can sell electricity at a premium price, it means that they can afford to buy expensive sustainable ‘green’ electricity. So giving a sustainable solution increase investment in alternative energy sources. ALSO most alternative energy sources do not produce energy consistently, i.e. Solar only produces during the day. So energy produced often has to be stored in massive and expensive batteries. An alternative storage method would be to trickle the energy into the parked cars connected to the grid, as it is produced. Then cars that remain connected could trickle the energy back to the grid as it is required.
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