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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.

So far, Project Better Place has signed deals with Israel (earlier post) and Denmark (earlier post).

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!)


Henry Gibson

With the TH!NK car now on the market with its optional ZEBRA battery, one would think that it might get a mention, especially since Denmark is now tied to Norway with a bridge. The cost of the ZEBRA battery is not in the materials but in the manufacturing which is only done in small quantities as are ALL electric car batteries even Toyota's. The cars themselves are also expensive because they are made in small numbers and use the most modern expensive electronics and motors and batteries also in small quantities. EVERY electric car should be a hybrid with a tiny generator, at the least, which runs both ethanol and gasoline. Every California freeway commuter lane should be electrified with conductors in the road surface. Safe designs for doing so are a hundred years old almost, and new ones could be invented tomorrow.

No battery, even fuel cells, proposed or likely to be invented will beat the diesel engine and its tank of fuel for energy capacity or well to wheels efficiency. Even an electric HUMMER could be built and run with one, two or three 30 pound diesel OPOC 13 hp. engine generators as a serial Plug-in-hybrid. No company can beat the total cost of ownership of the new purchase of a working old used car even with 5$ a gallon gasoline. New cars are almost never bought or used on an economic analysis. They are almost invariably works of industrial art or status symbols. ..HG..


Henry: "No battery, even fuel cells, proposed or likely to be invented will beat the diesel engine and its tank of fuel for energy capacity or well to wheels efficiency."

You are correct with regards to the energy density of diesel, but you must have made a typo with regards to the well-to-wheels efficiency.


Current maximum size for NiMH batteries without patent issues is about 10-20 amp-hour, or about the size of an 'F' cell. That's why the Ford Escape Hybrid was powered with a bunch of little cells. The actual limit is proprietary. The key patents are set to expire in late 2014.

Toyota uses prismatic cells (rectangular) but they also stay within this limit.

It should be pointed out that HEVs use the "power" form of the NiMH cell, not the "storage" form. The formats are a little different. That's why the HEVs can't storage much energy; they are using the battery packs as capacitors.

The EV-95 battery (95 amp-hr) used in the RAV4-EV is still working today, after 140K miles in some cases. McCain could spend his $300M battery prize by having the government buy out the Cobasys patents. If Chevron (the parent company) doesn't go for this, then I wouldn't give them any offshore drilling rights, or let them play in ANWR.


Comment to Jim
Just wanted to comment on your quote about American aid for Israel.
you wrote : "Isn't it great how the U.S. gives Israel billions per year in aid and then they turn around and sell it back to us?"
American aid for Israel is military aid only and Israel must to spend it on American goods instead of getting home made products , there is no connection between government aid and Shai Agassy`s project better place its strictly private business without state help .

Regards ,

Thanks for the battery info, Jim. EV-1 batteries were 85 Ah and were also used in the S10-EV electric truck. Chevron and Texaco officials should be ashamed of themselves for their behavior in retarding EV growth in the US.



Yes, and Exxon-Mobil and Chevron are strictly private companies in the U.S. that get no indirect aid or help from U.S. military operations either.

U.S gives Israel about 2.5 billion dollars a year for military purposes. Israel's military budget is about 16 billion dollars out of a total state budget of around 100 billion dollars.

John Taylor

re ~ "GM sold the patent rights for the ovonic battery that powered the EV-1 to Texaco. Now they will not allow anyone to make a NiMH battery > 20 maH"

It is unconscionable to buy up replacement technology and hold it off the market just so your monopoly on another product is not jeopardized.

Texaco & GM need held to account for their actions.
Other companies should be doubly wary of any joint ventures with them.

Andrey Levin

Ovonic patents cover use of Ni-Mh batteries in hybrids only, and only in US. Use of Ni-Mh batteries for battery electric vehicles is not restricted. Large format Ni-Mh batteries are used in tens of thousand hybrid buses, and anyone could use it for any hybrid applications, with small royalty payable to Ovonic (every hybrid car sold in US pays Ovonoc 50-70 dollars royalties).Extra-large format bi-polar Ni-Mh batteries are developed by EEI, but sales are very sluggish.

The reason why there are no takers to buy from Ovonic rights to manufacture larger format batteries for hybrid use, or to produce it freely for battery vehicle applications is very simple: Ni-Mh batteries are expensive, have very low cycle efficiency (about 50%, means that only 50% of electricity you draw from charger will be delivered to wheels), and have very high self-discharge rate, especially at elevated temperatures. For hybrid vehicles it is OK, but for PHEV or BEV Ni-Mh chemistry is unacceptable for widespread applications. Boutique applications like in mentioned above battery vehicles is not worth troubles for major car manufacturers. Hence drive to develop Li batteries with much higher energy density, no self-discharge and cycle efficiency of more than 90%.

Conspiracy theories about evil Ovonic or big oil killing electric car are baseless. Except, of course, if you like how it sounds.


Much of what Andrey has written about NiMH batteries is incorrect.

No one knows what is restricted by the patent agreement, because the agreement has been kept a secret. Toyota paid $30 Million in fines for their battery use. After the lawsuit, PEVE's large format battery disappeared from their website, but the small format prismatic cells remained. You be the judge. Since then, very few NiMH batteries larger than 6.5 amp-hour (fast discharge) or 13 amp-hr (storage) seem to be available from anyone other than Cobasys or those with a license agreement with Cobasys (like Saft). Even Nilar produces only small format cells.

NiMH cells are much less expensive than A123 Lithium ions or any other of the "safe" lithium ions on the market today. Much of their cost is in the nickel, which could be recovered with a core charge.

NiMHM charge and discharge as efficiently as any battery. The 50% cited above may refer the range of state of charge (SOC) used by the battery controller to lengthen lifetime. (This means only 50% of the rated capacity of the batteries are used.) By the Chevy Volt is employing a narrow state of charge on their Lithium Ions cells as well, so this seems to be a pretty broad practice at this point.

The safe lithium ion cells are no less bulky (volume) than NiMH cells, though they are about half the weight. It's unclear if the shelf life limitation (about 5 years) has been solved with Lithium ions at this point.

Andrey, you will likely be proven wrong in 2015 when the patents expire and many manufacturers will supply EV's with economical large format NiMH batteries that give ~150 miles range like we should have had in early 2000's. I guess only time will tell.

Andrey Levin


Gold Peak (just for example) has legacy licensing agreement from ECD and can produce Ni-Mh batteries of any format and usage with small royalty payment to ECD, when applicable (most ECD patents for Ni-Mh battery chemistry already expired). Still, no takers.

Toyota is paying about 2000$ to Panasonic for 1.3 KWh Prius battery, with usable energy storage of no more than 50%. Ni-Mh is mature technology, and cost will not drop, like it is expected to Li batteries (high price for Ni is one reason). So you do the math how much will cost battery for BEV.

And no, 50% cycle efficiency is sad reality of Ni-Mh chemistry. It has high internal resistance, and about 30% of electric energy during both charge and discharge is wasted as heat (hence massive cooling requirements for battery in Prius and alike).

And if you want really big Ni-Mh battery, you can order it here:

One standard wafer module is 1.45 KWh.


Andrey, Jim,

A contributing factor to relatively high price of NiMH car batteries is the usage of Rare Earth Elements which are quite expensive.

Many LiIon car batteries don't use expensive elements (except some that use Cobalt, like Toshiba and some other).
If the broad adoption of LiIon batteries takes place, and even modest improvements are made to the already announced LiIon batteries, hardly anybody will have a reason to use NiMH in cars after Cobasys patents expire (2014).
Some more advanced battery or ultra-capacitor technologies may make LiIon obsolete in 4-6 years.
It also takes several years and significant investment to build production capacity for any new storage technology.



Fair enough. Thanks for the education. I think most people expect Lithium Ions to be less expensive than NiMH sometime soon, but I don't think they are there yet. Patent propriety may keep the best chemistry elevated in price for some years to come. For all the issues with NiMH, they have delivered a viable solution, and Lithium has not yet. We will see how this all shakes out in the near future.

Bob Bastard

Yes, I too wish that personal computers were more like the automobile. Just think of the possibilities: Proprietary operating system for each manufacturer, no standardized hardware platform, and they would still be using those wonderful NiMH batteries, just like cars. Sounds great!

stas peterson

PBB is idiotic except in tiny restricted places, that have particularly difficult problems in obtaining fossil fuels, like Israel.

Its 30 years too soon for everybody else. South Africa and WWII Germany made Oil from Coal; they accepted the waste, and extra costs, as they had little choice.

Israel is doing nothing any different, just with a slightly different technology. And its not clear that it will work, despite Ghosens desires.


I only want to know if the price of
the battery exchange is going to be
significantly cheaper than the price
at the pump.


Hello, could anyone please advise me if they are aware of any company anywhere that is producing commercially viable electric vehicles, especially cars. I am a privateer from Australia with an interest in importing and selling. Thank You.


How come all these "experts" don't know about zinc air batteries and super nano capacitors that need one charge for ten minutes to go 360 miles? By the time PBP gets going. a better battery will be developed so that people can still charge overnight and get to where they need to be without recharging.


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