[Video] Interview on Electric Cars with Shai Agassi - 'Time for Big Bets' and Disruptive Business Models

November 11 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2016   Rating: 2

Last week at the OReilly Web 2.0 Summit Tim O’Reilly interviewed Shai Agassi, CEO of electric car network startup Better Place.

This [30 minute] interview reflects a very different way of thinking about the future based on the potent combination of new technology platforms and disruptive business models.

The simplest translation of Shai Agassi’s disruptive vision ?
We should buy the car, but not the battery or fuel cell. Remove the cost and risk of owning energy storage systems out of the consumer equation. Instead consumers would subscribe to an energy infrastructure provider and ‘pay per mile’ (e.g. mobile phone minutes plan). They could refill at a local electric recharge station, or pull up to a station to ‘swap out’ an old battery (or depleted solid block of hydrogen) for a new container. Agassi believes this new business model could lower the barriers that prevent us from leaping beyond the era of the combustion engine.

How do we do it? Big bets, major infrastructure investments and new business models.

Why is this important to the future of energy?

When it comes to technology driven innovation things might change slowly, but the past rarely dictates the future. And the worst thing we can do when thinking about the future of electric cars is to simply extend today’s era of combustion engines forward.

Electric vehicles powered by batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors – are likely to be designed and built differently. We are likely to see new types of factories, new aftermarket sales channels, and new ownership models. And we will almost certainly have new infrastructure to keep these vehicles moving.

Transforming the world’s auto industry requires ‘big bets’ and disruptive business models. But until now, we’ve only heard visions of the future, that resemble past. We’ve been caught trying to build a better buggy whip for tomorrow’s version of the new ‘horseless carriage’.

If Agassi is right – it might be time to start thinking very differently about how we build, buy, upgrade and fuel our vehicles in this new age of electric motors.

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
We have argued in this blog that the real revolution is changing how you ‘build’ cars, not fuel them. The problem is not oil, it is the combustion engine.

The key to moving beyond the era of liquid fuels and the combustion engine is to accelerate development of energy storage systems and infrastructure for supporting electric vehicles.

While batteries are clearly favored to power first generation electric motors, we believe that next generation vehicles will ultimately be powered by a combination of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. The ‘swap’ out model offered by Better Place is compatible with solid hydrogen storage and capacitors.

We have posts on recent investments into energy storage and electric utilities by Warren Buffet
and China’s BYD, France’s GDF, Hawaii’s HEKO utility, Denmark, Australia, and Israel. And according to a recent McKinsey & Co report it is China that holds the greatest potential for transforming the global auto industry in this era of electric vehicles.

Other posts
Is Detroit asleep at the wheel?
Electric Vehicle Industry goes Global
France to spend millions on electric vehicles
Warren Buffet buys equity in China’s BYD

Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. That was actually Tim O’Reilly that interviewed Agassi.

    Posted by: mjamrst   November 11, 2008
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  2. Re: mjamrst

    My bad! Thanks… correction made!

    Posted by: Garry Golden   November 12, 2008
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