Michigan Governor Looking for A Better Detroit?

Could Detroit be the first region in the U.S. to sign on with Shai Agassi’s electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place? Michigan’s governor Jennifer Granholm is certainly giving appearances that she’s looking into the idea of how the electric charging and battery swap stations would work in Michigan. Electrifying Detroit, if not Michigan as a whole, could be an interesting option, considering the tumultuous times and the questions over the auto bailout.

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This weekend Granholm travelled to Israel and met with Agassi and took a well-photographed ride in one of Better Place’s electric vehicles. Granholm blogged about the trip as well, and of the meeting with Agassi said:

We want to reduce our state’s and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and the advanced battery has the potential to do just that. We [She and Shai] talked about future partnerships that might be viable for Michigan, and in Michigan, we know that new energy means new jobs.

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Building out Better Place across Michigan probably wouldn’t make sense, given that the state has low population densities in many northern regions, but setting up the system in just Detroit could give the almost 1 million population city a new electric option. Then again Detroit residents have one of the lowest median incomes according to the U.S. Census, so they might not be eager to snap up high-end electric vehicles. The big auto industries aren’t that keen on the idea of Better Place, either — with General Motor’s vice chairman Bob Lutz actively making negative comments about the startup. So, we’re not sure traditional Detroit is ready for the idea.

Last month, Better Place announced that it is heading Down Under to deploy its electric car infrastructure in Australia, which is the third partnership the startup has signed after Israel and Denmark. But Better Place seems to be itching to find a pilot site in the U.S. to prove the business model can work stateside; Agassi said last month at a talk in San Francisco that for just California, the infrastructure setup would cost $1.5 billion, or about two weeks of oil imports. To set up the entire U.S. with the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, it would cost $100 billion.

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