The idea of Better Place is to provide a network of wind-powered recharging and “switching” stations for electrics cars – building an “electric car infrastructure”. That infrastructure consists of three key components other than the electric cars themselves (which will be manufactured by Renault-Nissan):
- “Charging spots” to keep batteries topped off so cars will always have a 100 mile range
- Battery switching stations for longer distance trips (drivers simply pull in and the battery is swapped out in about the time it takes to fill a tank of gas – no need to even get out of the car)
- Software to automate the process
With successful partnerships reached earlier this year to launch the program in Denmark and Israel (for cars on the market by 2011), Better Place CEO Shai Agassi has announced a deal with Australia’s AGL Energy Ltd. and Macquarie Capital Group to raise A$1 billion ($670 million US) to develop the program in Australia, with the first mass-market cars expected to be available for the 2012 model year.
The virtual oil field
Agassi thinks of his concept as a “virtual oil field”, envisioning a transportation system free of fossil fuels and a business model based on a triple bottom line – plus one:
These “four pillars” represent the idea that a world free from oil is possible, and that in the process Better Place can help create a carbon free economy on a healthy and thriving planet.
The devil is, of course, in the details, and the there are bedeviling details to work out – not the least of which is the scalability of the concept.
But Australia, the 6th largest country in the world with 15 million cars on the road, is a good next step in assess the viability of the Better Place model.
The whole idea is crystallized in the name: Better Place.
Agassi has his skeptics, but he, his team and partners, work on the belief that creating a better place is possible.