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June 19, 2008 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-06-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

This Renault-Nissan

sedan is one type
of electric car that

Israel hopes will
gain popularity.

Charged Up

Israeli building electric car network.

Dina Kraft
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Tel Aviv


n a land of high gas prices and no oil
resources, Israel is positioning itself
to lead the world into the age of the
electric car.
With $200 million in funding from
private investors and enthusiastic support
from the Israeli government, a young Israeli
high-tech multimillionaire, Shai Agassi, is
laying the groundwork for Israel to become
the first test case for the gasoline-free elec-
tric car.
His company is planning to establish a
network of battery-recharging areas across
Israel by 2011. Renault-Nissan will begin
introducing electric cars to the Israeli mar-
ket as soon as next year.
"What we are doing is something that
should have happened already;' says Dafna
Agassi, the marketing director of the Israel
office of Shai Agassi's Project Better Place,
which is based in California.
"The consumer pays for gas, and the
prices are going up every day. The solution
is here: Its the electric car."
Given Israel's small size, dearth of oil
resources and location in an oil-rich yet


June 19 • 2008

hostile neighborhood, the Jewish state is an he plans to trade in for an electric car next
ideal testing ground for the electric auto.
Eager to reduce the country's dependence
By "deploying faster than any other coun-
on gasoline and reduce car-generated pol-
try on the planet," Israel will map out and
lution, the Israeli government already has
discover the best ways to implement the
pledged to offer significant tax incentives
electric-car system, he said. Project Better
for buyers of electric cars. If successful, the
Place can then take that know-how to other
electric car venture could make Israel a
countries and traffic-clogged cities.
world leader in the industry.
Ofer says he plans to bring the idea to
That's precisely what Agassi and the
China, where he has shares in a local car
Israeli government want.
"Think about what happened with
Renault-Nissan will be the first to bring
Finland and Nokia — it sprung an entire
its electric cars to Israel, but the market
industry:' Dafna Agassi said of the mobile
soon will open to other companies.
phone phenomenon. "We are starting the
"Zero emission, zero noise Renault-
field here. Imagine bringing this to other
Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said
countries and the potential impact is huge' when he was in Jerusalem in January to
The cars will run on lithium-iron batter-
inaugurate the project. "It will be the most
ies, provided by ProjectBetterPlace, that
environmentally friendly mass-produced
should last for about 124 miles before need- car on the market."
ing to be recharged. This should suit the
Although electric cars are expected to
typical Israeli driver, who on average drives reduce emissions and make Israeli cities
fewer than 45 miles per day. For longer
quieter, they will still use fossil fuels. For the
trips, battery swap stations will serve as a
time being, the power stations that supply
safety net, the company said.
energy to the recharging points will run
"Environmentally, I thought ifs the best
mostly on coal and oil.
idea I've ever heard of and, secondly, it
"As I understand it, it has no relation
made a lot of financial sense,' said Idan
to alternative energy:' said Micha Asscher,
Ofer, a leading Israeli businessman and the
a professor of physical chemistry at the
project's main investor.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "It's a nice
Ofer spoke by phone from his SUV, which idea that our cars will gradually be driven

by electric power — for the quiet and less
pollution in the cities — but it is not alter-
native energy"
By contrast, in Denmark — which
signed on to the project after Israel —
power stations are fueled in part by wind
According to Ofer, whose family holdings
include oil refineries, Israel is making a
gradual transition to more environmentally
friendly sources of energy for its power sta-
tions, including the country's most plentiful
resource — solar power.
The major expense of an electric car is
its battery. To tackle that challenge, Project
Better Place is establishing a battery charg-
ing payment system similar to the way cus-
tomers pay for the air time on their cellular
Car owners will not own their batteries.
Those who purchase cars will pay monthly
fees based on their expected mileage. Cars
will be recharged both via plug-in charge
units at malls and parking garages, and 100
battery replacement stations along high-
ways, where batteries will be replaced for
longer journeys.
Shai Agassi will be in Israel next week
showing off the latest version of the electric
car and offering test drives to members of
the media. ❑

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