Israel’s Project Better Place Looks to Make Oil-dependent Vehicles Obsolete

June 20, 2011

If the United States were to trade places, economically and physically with Israel, isolating ourselves from our neighbors with constant war and no oil supply would we become as resourceful as the Israelis?

The Israelis have always been on the leading edge of technological advances but beginning in 2008, a project, that once implemented could quite literally save the planet from harmful car emissions and oil dependency, was started.

It is Project Better Place and its intentions are to turn all oil-motor transportation to electric. It was started by Shai Agassi, a 39-year-old, Israeli-American entrepreneur and partner, Idan Ofer, who founded the project by partnering with Renault-Nissan and initially raising $200 million to begin Project Better Place.

Project Better Place is to be completed by installing a nationwide network of battery exchange stations and roadside charge points all across Israel. There are to be approximately 500,000 of these exchange/charge stations across the country which will allow cars to be charged wherever they are parked.

Agassi planned that the first electric car would be on the road in 2009, 100,000 in 2010 and Israel to be completely oil-independent by 2018. The full network will be finished and active by the end of this year.

The difference between Renault-Nissan’s electric car and those being advertised elsewhere is that it is the first mass-produced model that is completely fuel-free.

Israel Prototype Electric Car

This difference is allowed because of the network of exchange/charge stations. Their motto is “Drive-Switch-Go,” which means you can recharge wherever you’re parked or you can drive into an exchange station, a battery swap will take place, and you drive out, on your way again.

The benefits:

  • Your car will tell you when you need a battery exchange or charge
  • It will take less than the time it takes to fill up to exchange the battery
  • These allow consumers to overcome the barrier of distances that can be driven on electric-operated vehicles
  • There are charge spots at train stations parking lots and shopping malls

Project Better Place has partnered with Dor Alon, one of Israel’s leading gas station operators, to incorporate battery switch stations at their already established gas stations. Also they have partnered with over 92 other businesses that will convert 45,000 internal combustion engine cars to electric, lithium-ion battery operated cars.

Charging Station DemonstrationWhen discussing electric cars the conversation almost always turns to economics, and can they truly be afforded. Agassi and Renault-Nissan’s answer is to treat the cars like mobile phone services. People will be able to pay an annual mileage plan, based on their annual mileage now, and after four years will be given the car or another alternative will be to pay-as-you-go per mileage at set mileage rates. You would pull into an exchange station, swipe your car’s information card so that mileage is tracked, pay for the amount you used and away you go.

The Israeli government is backing Project Better Place and have already implemented a lower tax incentive of 10 percent tax on electric vehicles versus the 72 percent tax on petrol vehicles.

A country of Israel’s statue, isolated and independent is the ground breaking example of where the rest of the world should be heading. Can we make the choice to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world? No. But we need to do something to better our economy, save our planet and rid us of our dependency on fossil fuels.

Resources: Oregon Live, Car Advice, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, Better Place, The Future of Things, MSN, The Register

and Margot Million