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Summary:

Shai Agassi, the founder and CEO of electric vehicle infrastructure startup, Better Place could create an electric vehicle infrastructure that would scatter charging spots and battery swapping stations across the nation during the president’s first term, he said Thursday night — at a cost of $100 billion.

“So here’s the proposition for President No. 44,” began Shai Agassi, the founder and CEO of electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place, in a speech Thursday night at an American Jewish Committee event in San Francisco. For $100 billion, Better Place could create an electric vehicle infrastructure that would place charging spots and battery swapping stations across the nation during the president’s first term, Agassi proposed. That cost is the equivalent of two months worth of oil imports — and would allow the U.S. to get off foreign oil in term two, Agassi insisted.

The alternative? “You’re at the mercy of the price of an oil barrel,” he said. If it somehow spikes $100-plus during the first term, you don’t get a second term, Agassi said.

Agassi, the former second-in-command at SAP, isn’t speaking hypothetically about cost estimates. He’s already crunched the numbers in both Israel and Denmark after convincing those governments to sign on. The total cost for Israel is $200 million. To get the ubiquitous coverage there, Agassi said he needs to charge up one out of every six or seven parking spots — 500,000 in total — as well as build 100-125 battery switching stations.

In California, the infrastructure set-up would cost $1.5 billion, or about two weeks of oil imports, and would include cells the size of Israel in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento. There’s are about five arteries that connect these sites, Agassi explained; the company would place battery switching station every 25 miles. For 100 miles, the system would need four switch stations, which would cost $2 million; for 400 miles, the network would need 16 stations, which would cost $8 million.

Then there’s the cars that will be charging up at these spots. Agassi said the opportunity to provide cars for Better Place’s network is a “great opportunity to kickstart the American car industry.” Agassi is audacious, to be sure, but then again, he’s already convinced Renault Nissan to invest a $1 billion into producing nine electric vehicle models, which will include a small city car, a light commercial truck, a sedan, a minivan, an SUV and a sports car. These will be available between 2010 and 2014, Agassi said.

And before Better Place really tries to convince the next president to sign on, Agassi said it’s already inked a deal with another — as yet unnamed — “large” country, where it will able to prove that the infrastructure will work at that scale. Agassi said he’ll announce the country sometime next week, so stay tuned.

  1. Where is Shai assuming he’s going to get the minerals for the batteries?

    The U.S. doesn’t have much Lithium. That doesn’t sound much like a plan for energy security either.

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  2. publicspeaker Friday, October 17, 2008

    Germany.

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  3. Not cost-effective compared to PHEVs (even biofueled PHEVs) especially in a country like the U.S.

    PHEVs have no complex infrastructure needed (maybe some charging stations at work, in addition to the one at home).

    PHEVs don’t need swapping stations. (No range problems).

    PHEVs don’t force standardization on a technology not yet fully developed. (Battery chemistry, battery pack form factor, etc.)

    PHEVs can evolve over time to carry the correct proportion of fuel vs. batteries. This will depend on technology improvements and the economics of oil and biofuels.

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  4. @Jim:
    The PHEV is a transition technology to pure BEVs.
    The PHEV carries additional weight and is complicated by the ICE and its required fuel tank, radiator, oil sump, generator, etc which adds to the cost of the car. The advantage of the BEV is the battery unit can be sized to the requirements of the driver’s speed and necessary mileage.
    “Better Place” offers a solution to those who decide to take a long range trip by swapping out the battery unit within 5 minutes.
    Current plans call for cars with about 130 miles range without swapping. Ideally, in the future battery units will be available with higher energy density that will allow a 300 mile range with fast charge stations that will charge the battery in 5 minutes.

    “Better Place” is based on a modeled after the cell phone industry where the car is in some cases free and the owner signs up for a monthly battery charging fee.

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  5. Lad,

    I’ve heard that all before. Yeah, the cost and weight of the IC engine. Hmm, and the extra batteries DON’T have extra cost and weight as well? Hmm, and these swapping stations, do ya think there is any cost with them?

    But the worst problem with PBP is that it is the de facto socialization of personal transportation. Some gov’t committee (or worse yet, a company picked by the gov’t) is going to be deciding what kind of battery packs to use, what company can produce the charging stations, and what sort of cars can interface with this huge, massively expensive infrastructure.

    And why? Because of the mistaken notion that you can sell electric cars like cell phones.

    Look at it this way, either batteries will become competitive to allow full-electric vehicles (with acceptable range) or they will not. If so, then auto companies will build such cars to satisfy the consumer. Lots of different models, different battery pack form factors, different battery chemistries, etc.

    These will all then COMPETE and thus make the system even better over time. How can a system based on a 100 Billion dollar infrastructure (Agassi’s words) be competitive? How can the system ever be changed or upgraded without lobbying to some gov’t panel that would inevitably become corrupt, incompetent, or both?

    The system would be laughable if it weren’t being taken so seriously by civic leaders who are being poorly advised.

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  6. Revolutionary energy conversion technology promises to eliminate the need for battery recharge or exchange.

    These new systems tap energy sources never before commercialized.

    They are likely to be in production by this time next year.

    To learn more, see the website.

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  7. He certainly has chutzpah, but maybe also meshugah!

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  8. Having been in the luxury automotive industry for some time, I believe that it will be difficult for the U.S. masses to adapt to the battery swapping stations. Most drivers don’t even want to change their lead batteries when necessary, after years of driving! Let alone, (how many miles)?

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  9. Dear Mr. Agassi,
    Please take your concept to another country. Your home country, Israel, would be a good place. Prove that the concept works before you come here. We don’t want to be your guinea pig.

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  10. [...] du projet Better Place (réseau de stations de recharges pour voitures électriques) Shai Agassi a déclaré au futur président américain qu’installer Better Place aux Etats-Unis coûterait 1… pour un réseau couvrant le territoire américain dans les 4 [...]

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  11. [...] Better Place; he’ll announce that country sometime this week. H/t to Arnold S. for the tip![Source: Earth2Tech] Read | Permalink | Email this | [...]

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  12. [...] Better Place; he’ll announce that country sometime this week. H/t to Arnold S. for the tip![Source: Earth2Tech] Read | Permalink | Email this | [...]

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  13. [...] Earth2Tech October 17, 2008 | david | Green Tech, announcements, startups  | [...]

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  14. As long as PBP’s charging stations aren’t locked to only work with PBP cars, this is a brilliant idea. For example, in the EU, the tiny / slow / old-fashioned G-Whiz electric microcar is already quite common, in the US some golf-cart-like neighbourhood electric vehicles are alredy seen… in a few years time plug-in-hybrid Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt cars will be everywhere too as both types will be sold globally

    if mr.Agassi’s charging points can connect to a PHEV via an adapter they will be much more popular than if they are limited to his own modular BEV car design, as people travelling long-distance in a PHEV will be able to use them to reduce their liquid-fuel bills (I assume the electric charge will be marginally cheaper per mile/charge than an equivalent energy-volume of motor fuel)

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  15. You can follow us on Twitter @bpcommunity to get the latest updates and letting us know what you think about the electric car network industry. We like to hear from you. See you there :)

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  16. Better Place’s (”BP”) idea is the most foolish business plan ever. It is premised on the assumption that battery technology will not evolve and improve. Battery technology is technology. With time, technology gets better and costs less. Look at processors, LCD TVs, etc. Investment into battery technology has been growing exponentially since the advent of laptops, cellphones, PDAs. Batteries can already get us 100 miles. How much improvement do we need before BP’s “recharging/swapping stations” become redundant? BP plans to have it’s infrastructure set up in Australia by 2012. As per normal delays, that means it will actually be set up by 2014-16. There are no plans for the USA. So, at the earliest, infrastructure would be set up here by 2018. That is a decade away. Where do you think battery technology will be in a decade? It in all likelihood, it will be in a place that makes BP’s charging stations redundant before they even get truly started. This is not to mention that plug-in electric-gas hybrids would make all that BP infrastructure redundant. All BP is trying to do is get into the market early to create a electricity network monopoly. When consumers realize that their batteries are good enough so that the network is redundant, BP’s monopoly will disintegrate.

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  17. Surely gas-hybrids only make Charging points redundant if running on gasoline (or diesel, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia or any other internal-combustion fuel) is cheaper than running electrically?

    I see no possibility that this will ever be the case. it would be worth plugging a plug-in gas-electro hybrid into a PBP charging point unless their electricity surcharges are ludicrous, as the cost of a kilowatt/hour of electricity is a tiny fraction of the cost of an equivalent energy-density of any internal-combustion fuel you can name…

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  18. [...] Agassi has said that to build out the infrastructure throughout California it would cost $1.5 billion, or about two weeks of oil imports. That would include car-charging spots in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento, and battery swap stations every 25 miles that would connect these hubs. For 100 miles, the system would need four switch stations, which would cost $2 million; for 400 miles, the network would need 16 stations, which would cost $8 million. [...]

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  19. [...] vehicle infrastructure company, BetterPlace, making a big announcemment today about adding California to its list of [...]

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  20. [...] market availability of electric cars” will be ready by 2012. That figure makes Agassi’s previous $1.5 billion estimate for a network for all of California sound rather low. Better Place says network planning [...]

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  21. [...] tells us it will be similar to the planned investment in Israel and Denmark; Israel is supposed to cost around $200 million to buildout. Hawaii utility Hawaiian Electric Company has also signed on, in what it says is the first Better [...]

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  22. [...] an entirely unproven business model around electric vehicles is going to be rather difficult. Agassi has said — in a speech with a direct shoutout for the incoming administration — that a network [...]

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  23. [...] cost more than that — Better Place has said to get Israel’s EV network up and running it’ll cost $200 million. Israel is about half the square kilometers of [...]

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  24. [...] Better Place says it will be using the funds to continue deployments in countries where it is currently working — Israel, Denmark, Australia, and Hawaii — and also to expand into markets “in Europe and Asia.” Founder and CEO Shai Agassi (one of our Earth2Tech Top 15 Connected Car Influencers) said on a media call this morning that the company is planning to deploy between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations for both Israel and Denmark (previously he’s also said hundreds of thousands of charging stations would be required per cou…). [...]

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