Shai Agassi has a plan to cut back on the world's dependence on oil. The Israeli entrepreneur has just launched the world's first electric car network.
Agassi's new venture, Better Place, hopes to eliminate two reasons consumers have shirked electronic cars: a limited range and high price tag. Better Place offers a swappable battery model, which will allow users to switched depleted batteries for fully charged ones at service stations. The company owns the rechargeable batteries, reducing the cost of the vehicles.
The electric cars will also save approximately 20 percent in operating costs each year over conventional cars and eliminate 11,500 pounds of greenhouse gas and 700 pounds of pollutants for each electric car on the road.
Still, many are skeptical of the consumer appeal of the new electric car network. Currently, only four battery-swapping stations are operational in Northern and Central Israel and drivers are limited to a single car model, a French-manufactured Fluence that is compatible with Better Place.
Better Place has plans to build 40 new swapping stations and introduce a second car model in the coming year. But even if these plans are successful, some auto experts fear that consumers will shirk electric cars due to range concerns. John McElroy, an auto industry expert, warned, “Consumers may simply decide that electric cars don't offer the range they need.”
Agassi's green solution may also end up a victim to bad timing. After a long-standing natural gas treaty with Egypt failed, Israel is facing a possible energy crisis and blackouts this summer, making relying on an electric car more risky.
Despite this, Agassi and the Better Place team remain hopeful that their electric car network will prove to be a green transportation solution. Speaking of his new model Agassi noted, “We're driving a car that most people said would be a fantasy.”