Electric Car Network

I wrote about car recharging stations being developed in Israel and being deployed there and in Denmark.  Now, the company, which has secured a $350 million investment led by HSBC, plans to launch a network of charging stations in Israel by next year.  They’ve partnered with a local gas station chain to host the recharging stations, and with Renault to modify their cars to take the electric batteries.  Better Place claims that the batteries have a first-run life of 300-400,000 kilometers (that’s about 180-240,000 miles in real units), and then can be reconditioned to get that amount again on their second run.

New technologies often have the problem of being dependent on parallel developments to work.  In the 1860s and 1870s, railroads weren’t going to build without a population to support; the people couldn’t get there without the railroads, so the government heavily subsidized western track-building.  In this case, it was clear that the recharging stations wouldn’t work without cars to service, and it’s been clear to me for some time that electric cars weren’t going anywhere if they were only good for runs to the supermarket.  Better Place has managed to broker the deals necessary to get the technology moving, and one assumes that Israel’s electrical grid is up to the task.

It’s unclear where the initial R&D funding came from, but the fact is that the market has supported the development of these grids and these cars.  Agassi claims that the cars will be cheaper than the gas equivalents, and cheaper to “refill” per mile than the gas equivalent.  Their range is advertised at 350  miles, which is about what an average tank of gas gets, and about 50 miles farther than my Jeep gets on one tank.  Assuming that the car’s performance is adequate, the market already exists.  It means that I don’t have to believe in anthropogenic global warming or peak oil or anything else to buy one.  I just have to want to save money.

The question for the USA, as always, is where we’re going to get the electricity from.  If individuals want to recharge their batteries, they’ll probably do so overnight, which means baseload capacity that wind and solar can’t provide.  So hopefully, those of us who want to see both nuclear and electric cars can persuade both ends to make it easier for the middle.



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