An innovative master stroke, Agassi proposes overcoming the range limitations of "traditional" battery-powered cars first by redesigning and standardizing the automobile's power plant (e.g. battery packs) then constructing an international - even a global - network of support stations (like the gas/service stations of old) that would be called charging stations but their method would offer a little-or-no-wait process wherein rather than recharge the customer's battery while he/she waits up to 2 to 3 hours, the Better Place service facilities would simply slide out the discharged battery and replace it with one that is fully-recharged. According to Agassi's proforma, if car manufacturers cooperate and actually standardize both the batteries and their housings, the exchange process should take no longer than filling a tank with gas.
Six months later, Mr. Agassi continues to pursue his vision and investors continue to support his projects. Today's Parade Magazine had a small feature about Agassi, Better Place and the future of this particular vision for the transformation from gas to electric:
Making Electric Cars PracticalShai Agassi is the founder and CEO of Better Place, a company with plans to bring affordable electric cars to the U.S. by 2012.
Q & A by Brooke Lea Foster/Parade Magazine
What does Better Place do?
We’re an energy network for electric cars. We don’t make the cars—we’re working with Renault to do that—but we’ll build a network of stations and charging spots so that people can use them. Think of us as the equivalent of AT&T for electric cars.
Why don’t more people drive electric cars?
It’s a question of the chicken and the egg. Until now, nobody produced these cars, so there was no energy network in place. But if you don’t set up a network, nobody buys the cars. It’s the same with cellphones—no one would buy the phones if there were no networks to support them.
How close are you to setting up a system in the U.S.?
We’re already running pilot programs in Northern California and Hawaii. We plan to build more than 10,000 charging spots in public areas in California and have them operating by 2012.
If Americans switch to electric cars, will we have enough energy to power them?
To drive 30 miles each day—the American average—you need 300 watts. That’s about the equivalent of having your computer or plasma TV turned on all day. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed you could power 200 million electric cars without a single change to the grid.
What’s happening in other countries?
Better Place is building charging stations in Denmark, Israel, and Australia. By the end of 2011, the networks will be open for consumers. China is moving very rapidly, investing billions in infrastructure. Once they get going, it will be extremely hard for the U.S. to catch up.