Israel Corp. to Invest up to $100M More in Project Better Place EV Efforts; Agassi Pushing PBB for the US
Israel Corp., Israel’s largest holding company, will invest another $15.5 into Project Better Place (PBB) in addition to the $7.5 million already in. The company said it would invest up to $100 million in the venture designed to deploy a regional and global infrastructure to support electric vehicles on a country-by-country basis. (Earlier post.)
Israel Corp.’s announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of the additional funding followed a presentation to the Israel Corp. board of the Better Place budget, including milestones and a fund-raising plan. Idan Ofer, Chairman of Israel Corp., is serving as Chairman of the Board of Project Better Place.
According to Globes, Project Better Place plans to launch a pilot with a few cars in Israel by year-end, and expand to several dozen more cars during 2009. The pilot will precede final development of regular electric cars by the Renault Nissan Alliance, which is partnering with Project Better Place.
In late June, Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Project Better Place; Dominique Thormann, senior vice president of Nissan North America; and Torben Holm of DONG Energy A/S, Project Better Place’s partner in Denmark, testified before the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Agassi outlined the Project Better Place business plan and its potential in the US. Adopting a model similar to that of the cell phone, Agassi said,
...we rely not on a premium-priced new car model available only to a small part of the driving public. Instead, we offer a free or nearly free car and charge current operating costs on an ongoing basis—enabling all car owners to make the gasoline to electricity transition.
For the price of two months worth of oil, some $100 billion, we can put in place the infrastructure needed to power the nation’s cars and end this oil dependence. Of that $100 billion, moreover, some $80 billion will go into jobs that, by their nature, can only be performed in the United States—the construction of the infrastructure itself.
...This is not a moment for incrementalism, but for transformative thinking. Instead of exclusively oil, let’s enable our cars to run on electricity generated from a diversity of sources – and at the same time enable much greater flexibility in the grid by growing energy storage that can bridge intermittent renewable sources like solar, wind and tidal. How do we make these diverse energy sources relevant to transportation? We find a formula to get our automobiles onto the grid.
Better Place, said Agassi, proposes deploying a ubiquitous network of charging spots, sufficient to support single-charge, all-electric trips of 120 miles or less.
Better Place will also deploy range extension for long trips in the form of battery exchange stations&mdsah;automated, mechanical battery swap points—on major arteries linking urban areas. That makes the electric vehicle just as relevant for our longer driving trips.
...For the subscriber, just as with cell phone calling programs, there will be a menu of plans to suit different driving habits.
Agassi said that Project Better Place is in “active discussions” with more than 30 other countries, and with dozens of regions, provinces, states and large cities.
Many of those discussions, both in the US and globally, are well advanced. We anticipate that four to six other countries or regions will—in the coming months&mdsah;announce their intentions to take up the Better Place model, just as Israel and Denmark have done.
There is no doubt that this progress has been helped along by the anxieties arising from the spike in oil prices. But our progress is not dependent on high gas prices. The Better Place model happens to have even greater appeal in a world of $4-per-gallon gas. But the model works—even when prices are drastically lower.
And just as it will work for Israel, Denmark and the other regions and localities we expect to come on line soon, it will work for the United States. Across this country, countless localities and regions present the same characteristics that make the model an appropriate fit elsewhere: density of population, reliance on personal vehicles, mature traffic infrastructures, all leading to in-built congestion. And as these localities and regions are built out, connecting them into a truly national grid becomes more and more feasible.
In his testimony, Thormann said that Nissan’s goal is to bring to market in the United States a fully electric automobile before the end of 2010.
At first, the number of vehicles will be relatively small but we plan to have a truly mass market vehicle available in the US by 2012. These electric vehicles will be cars the consumer will be happy to drive. They will have a range that will get them comfortably to work and back home with all the comfort and features they are used to today. They will handle highway speeds and permit the driver to comfortably merge into highway traffic. The acceleration will surprise many and make the vehicles fun to drive. As the market grows, different types and sizes of vehicles will be launched.
Holm of Dong Energy said that they have a very high degree of confidence that this model can and will work in Denmark.
We have also very high—but we believe quite realistic—expectations of the benefits this model will bring, for emissions, energy efficiency and individual consumers.
We have estimated, for example, that even if all of the electrical charging of cars was sourced from coal-fired power plants, net CO2 emissions would still decline by half because electric motors are 3-4 times more efficient than either gasoline or diesel ones. The more wind power we have, the higher the CO2 emissions improvements will be.
...both DONG Energy and the Danish government strongly support efforts to transform our transportation infrastructure from gasoline to electricity. There are, of course, supply constraints at present both from the auto manufacturing industry and amongst battery producers that we are working to address. There is also work underway to ensure that Denmark’s public policy framework works in favor of—or at least not counter to—this model. But we believe these challenges are surmountable. Indeed, we believe they must be surmounted if we are to break free from our oil dependency and secure the environmental, security and consumer benefits that this transformation can bring.
(A hat-tip to MannyGo!)