Shai Agassi on How to Electrify America's Cars

Can Shai Agassi’s electric vehicle infrastructure startup Project Better Place tackle the U.S.? The well-funded startup has only done deals with small countries, but Agassi certainly thinks so (as does San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom). In this video interview that we shot at a plug-in vehicle conference, Agassi explains to us why he thinks the U.S. is a good fit for Project Better Place.

Agassi contends that the clustered populations on the west and east coasts make it easy for the company to effectively deploy battery swapping and charging stations. He also says that because so many Americans have second cars, there is basically “a range-extension mechanism built into the country.” That one long road trip outside of the electric vehicle’s range can be done by that second regular vehicle.


The conference where we chatted with Agassi was the Google.org/Brookings Institute’s on plug-in vehicles, which was held in Washington, D.C. this week. Agassi spoke on a panel there, and during the panel, we also got an indicator that Project Better Place might be working with lithium ion battery company A123Systems.

Update: Project Better Place Chief Marketing Officier Joe Paluska confirmed that A123 is working with Project Better Place for batteries, as well as AESC, a joint venture between Nissan and NEC. More on this later today.

Right before we filmed this interview Agassi had just been on a panel discussion with Dave Vieau, the CEO of A123Systems. Vieau made the comment that “We’re getting the opportunity to work on some new cars,” and gestured toward Agassi. While NEC Corp. is working with Nissan to supply batteries for Project Better Place’s electric cars in Israel, perhaps Watertown, Mass.- based A123 is joining the company’s battery supplier list.

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