California moves forward on 'green infrastructure', invites startup Better Place to build out electric car fueling network

November 21 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Transportation   Year: 2016   Rating: 4

On November 20th California took a major step towards building out the state’s “green” infrastructure to support the electrification of the auto fleet towards vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. State and local leaders gathered in San Francisco to announce a new public partnership with ‘mobility operator’ Better Place.

Better Place has big plans for California and has estimated that the network investment in the Bay Area alone will total $1 billion when the system is fully deployed.

We have featured several stories on Better Place and CEO Shai Agassi [Video Interview] to highlight the company’s vision for changing the business model for how cars are fueled. Better Place is moving quickly and has already negotiated infrastructure projects within Israel, Denmark, Australia, and Hawaii. Adding California to their list could be the tipping point. Not just for Better Place, but for how we think about fueling our vehicles with batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.

The simplest translation of Shai Agassi’s disruptive vision?
To expand adoption of electric vehicles we must lower barriers for consumers and rethink our notions of infrastructure in a way that goes beyond the model of paying at the corner gas station pump.

Consumers should buy the car, but not the energy storage device (battery, fuel cell or capacitor). Remove the cost and risk of owning energy storage systems that might be improved in the next six months or a year. Instead consumers would subscribe to an energy infrastructure provider who offers a ‘pay per mile’ (e.g. mobile phone minutes) plan.

Drivers could recharge at a local station, or (pay attention!!) pull up to a station to ‘swap out’ an old battery (or solid block of hydrogen, other fuel cartridge) for a new container. It is this ‘swap out’ model that holds the greatest disruptive potential.

How do we do it?

Agassi and Better Place believe that change only happens when you combine disruptive technologies with new business platforms. We couldn’t agree more! (Especially with regard to the ‘swap out’ model, first explored by Shell scenario writers around solid hydrogen bricks in the 1990s.)

The next few years will require big bets and big leaps around new models of vehicle ownership, infrastructure management systems and largely unproven energy storage technologies. But things are changing quickly so it is a ripe time for innovative thinking!

We do add a word of caution towards lithium ion batteries.

To simply assume that batteries and plugging in will carry the auto industry forward could be a wrong assumption. We must not pick winners and be patient as auto engineers integrate batteries, fuel cells and capacitors together in one seamless system.

Better Place Press release

Related posts
Future of US Auto Industry
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
What power cars of future, both batteries and fuel cells

About Better Place:
Better Place is a mobility operator that aims to reduce oil dependence by delivering personal transportation as a sustainable service. Launched in 2007 with $200 million of venture funding, the company builds electric-vehicle networks powered by renewable energy to give consumers an affordable, sustainable alternative for personal mobility. Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel and Denmark. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. At least they’re laying down the infrastructure now. Wonder if it’ll pay off big ten or twenty years from now.

    Posted by: martymcfly   November 24, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend