Israel and Renault/Nissan announced today that they will work together, as part of Project Better Place, to create a market and an infrastructure for the mass production of electric vehicles. This move is a testament to the potential of sustainable development when the political will and entrepreneurial spirit are in place.
Project Better Place was started one year ago when entrepreneur Shai Agassi (shown in picture) conceived of a plan to address the challenges of sustainability in his home country. He left his post at SAP AG to work directly with the Israeli government to build the capacity and connections necessary to wean Israel’s transportation sector off petroleum. After successful talks with Renault/Nissan and the creation of a private investor group, Project Better Place is now becoming a reality.
Israel is a perfect market for electric cars because of its limited geography and urban density. Ninety percent of Israelis drive less than 70 km/day. The proposed cars are to be built with lithium batteries with a 100 km range. The Israeli government plans to subsidize the initial costs of the car and develop an advanced charging infrastructure.
One wonders how it is that Israel can move so quickly to adopt this clean form of transportation on a mass-scale, while the U.S. lags behind even China in fuel efficiency standards. I would venture to say that a primary reason is because the oil lobby has far less influence in Israel than it does here.