Israel is set to become the first country with a nationwide power grid to recharge electric cars. And one company is helping Israel take a giant green step.
Israelis strive to make the world a better place.
It started as a question to young global leaders. What could they do to make the world a better place?
Shai Agassi, an Israei businessman, took up the challenge. His approach was freeing the world from its oil addiction through electric cars.
"To do that you need a new system that takes care of a holistic approach not just a car, because much like gasoline cars won't work without gas stations, he explained. "Electric cars won't work without the right infrastructure to make them convenient and affordable for consumers."
Agassi's goal is to set up that infrastructure in Israel by 2011.
Electricity for the grid would be generated when possible by renewable sources. The plan would use computer software to manage Israel's flow of electricity so the power grid does not get overloaded during peak hours.
The cars would recharge at spots installed in public parking lots, at work and at home. So every time the car is parked, it would be plugged in and recharging.
For long trips, switching stations would allow you to swap your battery robotically for a fresh one in less than two minutes.
"Whenever batteries come into the switch station we perform health checks on them," said Quin Garcia of Automotive Alliances
Garcia said routine maintenance should be cheaper too.
"You don't have things like oil filters and oil to change and even the breaks, because you have the re-generative breaking feature the breaks actually last much longer than they would on a typical vehicle," he added.
Agassi's company, Better Place, will initially partner with car manufacturer Renault. But executives say they are in talks with all car makers.
Agassi is pledging to make the cars more convenient and affordable than gasoline cars. He said the cost of setting up the privately funded grid would amount to the cost of one tank of gas per car in Israel.
"Imagine we can get the entire United States off oil at the cost of one gas tank per car in the country," Agassi said.
Denmark and Australia are already moving toward the system and the U.S., Canada and Japan are also interested.
Better Place recently opened a visitor center in Israel. But many Israelis are skeptical. Some say the company is creating a monopoly whereby car owners will be trapped into costly service and supply contracts.
Agassi sees a Better Place as part of Israel's calling.
"In the Bible it says Israel is 'or le goyim' light for the nations and to a certain degree Israel's recently been branded if you want as a center for global problems," Agassi said. "It's the first time Israel picks up a global problem that was not started in Israel, but solves the problem and takes that solution and exports it out to the rest of the world."