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Shai Agassi on How to Electrify America's Cars

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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 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.

9 Responses to “Shai Agassi on How to Electrify America's Cars”

  1. I guess it boils down to battery-swapping vs. PHEVs. PHEVs seem less intrusive from the standpoint of a fixed infrastructure dictating battery choices, etc. On the one hand, a PHEV might not go 100 miles all-electric, but on the other hand, most drivers don’t need to go that far on a daily basis anyway.

    The extra stuff that makes a PHEV able to use gasoline is less expensive than the extra batteries needed to make an electric vehicle go 100+ miles on a single charge.

    It’s not clear to me how this will shake out.

  2. The idea is sound, if independently orchestrated. But because Shai Agassi is a point man for the World Economic Forum, you begin to wonder if it’s how ExxonMobil and GE plan to edge their bets… If they were “really” interested in stretching EVs across America, they’d follow in the footsteps of where the ground work’s already been done all along the old Route 66!

  3. This is the worst idea America has ever seen, what happened to free markets and capitalism. This idea sounds socialist and should not enter USA. This ideas is perfect for those lazy boring racist socialist countries like Canada, Denmark, and Europe who love paying high taxes and bad service.