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Electric Cars for Everyone - Tomorrow

by gmoke Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:59:39 PM EST

Shai Agassi used to be the CEO of SAP.  Today he is planning to rebuild the automobile industry from the ground up.  With Better Place, he has a business model that may make electric cars real, tomorrow.  He began when he was asked a simple question at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:  How do you make the world a better place by 2020?

Being an engineer, he took that question seriously and began thinking about moving transportation off oil, completely.  His guiding principle was "You need to go down from molecules to electrons to change the world."  Dematerialization.  At MIT on Thursday, December 4, he explained just how he is applying that concept to the automotive world.

Here's an earlier, eight minute version of his plan:


Better World has a partnership with Renault and Nissan to build electric cars.  Not electric vehicles but four wheel, four door, normal looking electric cars.  They will have half as many parts and be twice as fast.  They will be powered by lithium/iron/phosphate batteries which have a range of 125 miles.  Better World will own the batteries and install a system of charging stations at parking lots, homes, and along the highway.  These will be smart chargers that connect to the grid so that the batteries will eventually be rolling energy storage and load levelers.  50,000 cars will equal 1 GigaWatt.

Cars are parked on average 22 hours a day and usually at one of four places:  at home, at work, where you shop, and where you party.  The batteries will trickle charge there or you can switch out the entire battery pack at a charging station.  Better World is considering four different methods of battery switching, the slowest of which takes one minute.  If one in six parking spaces is a charging station, they will be seen as ubiquitous.  It will cost (Agassi said "Don't quote me" so these are rough figures) about $500 for a street charging station and around $200 for a home charging station.

This system costs out at the equivalent of $1.50 per gallon oil and requires absolutely no new technology.

Israel has already bought in on this process as it has plans to get oil by 2020.  They will be instituting a new tax system on automobiles starting with 72% tax on buying a gasoline car and 10% tax on electric cars.  Each year the tax will increase to expedite market penetration.  Better World is building a 2 GigaWatt solar field in the desert over the next 10 years which will provide electricity for all of Israel's cars.  Israel's system will cost about $1 billion, a month or two of what they currently spend on oil.

Denmark has also bought in.  Their new automobile tax structure will be 180% for gasoline vehicles and 0% for electric.  Their source of electricity will be wind and help them level their loads.  There are times when Denmark's many wind turbines produce too much electricity for their grid.  Installing electric car charging stations will remove that problem.

Hawaii is also buying in and two weeks ago a consortium of Bay Area mayor led by San Francisco's Mayor Newsom has signed on with Better World.  The Better Place model is coming, like it or not.

Agassi is using a cell phone model to sell the concept - buy a contract and you get a car for little or even nothing.  (An idea he got after talking with Bill Clinton.)  He is also going open source with the idea with only the proviso that others use international standards for all connectors and that the different networks can interoperate.

* Drivers pay to access a network of charging spots and conveniently located battery exchange stations powered by renewable energy.
  • Drivers pay for the miles they drive.
  • Cars are made much more affordable--even free in some markets--by the business model's financial and environmental incentives to add drivers into the network.
  • Better Place operates the electric recharge grid that brings it all together.

This is transportation as a sustainable service, with drivers as subscribers, and Better Place as a true "mobility operator."

Agassi says, "If you do the right moral thing immediately, you win."  

You know, he just might be right.

Shai Agassi has a blog at http://shaiagassi.typepad.com/ and Better World has 7000 unsolicited requests for jobs.  Mass production of the Renault/Nissan/Better World cars should be happening by 2011.  

Get ready for the future.

Better World model will work?
. yes 16%
. no 16%
. not yes 8%
. not no 25%
. neither yes nor no 8%
. both yes and no 25%
. don't understand the question? 0%
. none of the above 0%

Votes: 12
Results | Other Polls
It will cost (Agassi said "Don't quote me" so these are rough figures) about $500 for a street charging station and around $200 for a home charging station.
This cost sounds reasonable for the charging control system by itself.  In a home installation there may not be too much more of an installation to perform.  In a public or business parking lot the system would have to be more rugged and electrical distribution would have to be installed per code, in many places underground.

I recall performing an estimate for providing charging distribution for a car park associated with 400 unit apartment complex.  As I recall, the total cost of installing such a system in the existing parking terrace was less than the cost of a single apartment.  Electric generation would be more, of course.

Such a system would be perfect for a place such as Hawaii.  A regional economy such as California would be a logical extension of such a system.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:39:01 PM EST
yeah for hawaii!

i always felt it was the natural place to demo energy self-sufficiency, the big island alone has 12 of the 13 types of topography present on earth, and it has no oil, but has wind, sun, ocean thermal a-gogo.

European Tribune - Electric Cars for Everyone - Tomorrow

Israel's system will cost about $1 billion, a month or two of what they currently spend on oil.

you really have to be terminally, braindead stoopid, or criminally evil, not to see the way forward here...

can i get a witness?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 10:51:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Look like a bit pee in the sky, good talker but too optimist for me.

but there are some very rational way to build a new (and very comfortable : active suspension) type of car :

Michelin active wheel ( http://www.motorauthority.com/michelins-active-wheel-technology-in-detail.html ) (Active suspension+motor+stearing driver) with very small and dedicated/efficient engine to generate electricity + super capacitor (EEStor) and battery like the Trinity one http://www.afstrinity.com/xh.htm

and why not adding a stirling engine to add a bit more efficiency by collecting the main engine/Supercapacitor heat.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:50:40 AM EST
Imagine if China could produce few hundred million of these standardized Wheel, that would bring the cost of a car to dirt cheap with a reliability of few million of Km (with a service every 100,000 km to test/upgrade the batteries ;-) ).

That would be cool and would change the car design.I would love to plug my car at night.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:21:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... that people have been talking about for years is that the batteries will need replacing before the drive trains do ... having an infrastructure company that runs the battery swap locations own the batteries as well turns that problem on its head.

Now the payout cost for the battery is built into the contract rate and the electric car maker does not have to worry about the battery ... they have to provide a battery holder with the correct interface, and Better Way worries about batteries.

And its a freaking electric car ... its much simpler than a gasoline powered car, never mind the complexities of a hybrid, and the hard part is offloaded to someone else.

Meanwhile, gasoline prices have not spiked at least once if not several times by 2011, it means we are mired deep in a depression, in which case most entrepreneurial plans are dust ... and there is a core market in Israel and Denmark where these cars are going to be selling in any event, given the tax differential.

If gasoline prices have spiked, they are going to be working a waiting list in the original trial areas.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 03:51:15 AM EST
"that people have been talking about for years is that the batteries will need replacing before the drive trains do"

This talking is done by people who don't have hybrid cars. The field experience is that because the charging system is carefully managed, the batteries last indefinitely. Furthermore, those few batteries that have failed have usually suffered from a loss of balance between the cells due to an imperfection in one cell, which means that the faulty cell can be replaced and the battery as a whole re-installed.

The batteries are just a bunch of rechargeable flashlight cells connected in series...

by asdf on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 07:56:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... batteries are expected to last as long 150,000 to 200,000 miles or more.

Its a shame that Sustainable Energy Ireland (pdf) were giving such ill-informed advice as recently as last year:

Battery lifetime: The length of time a battery lasts will depend on how often it is used, charged and discharged. Regular fast-charging can reduce the lifetime of current batteries. However, for average usage, the battery should only need to be replaced a couple of times in the vehicle's lifetime. The manufacturer of the car will be able to advise how best to look after the battery to extend its life. Battery technology is also improving rapidly - over the last three years there has been a significant increase in the battery lifetimes.

... though the thought does occur that perhaps the experience of using batteries in hybrid vehicles is not actually more relevant to the lifetime of batteries in electric vehicles than the experience of using batteries in electric vehicles.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 10:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This model reminds me of Citizen (Re) rather than top-up cell phones.

And green job creation is good, timely. But I smell loss leader. That's not necessarily a bad thing (for consumers), but the plan is unlikely to solve Big 3 losses -- assuming DC is serious about restructuring. A sustainable replacement market looks farther away than 2020. Then again the BW plan is all batteries and locking up Sec. 641 grants/qualified energy bond capital. Investors will like that.

Did Better World do a deal with Portugal? The site doesn't mention that Renault/Nissan agreement, though it appears similar to the Isreal case.

Portugal sees mass use of electric cars in 2011 | Reuters | 22 Nov 2008

Portugal will build 1,300 charging stations for electric cars by the end of 2011 as part of a deal with Renault and Nissan to promote zero-emission vehicles, the government and the auto makers said on Saturday.

As part of the agreement with France's Renault (RENA.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and its Japanese partner Nissan (7201.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Portugal will also decree that one-fifth of all its public fleet vehicle purchases be zero-emission starting in 2011.

Renault-Nissan will start deliveries to Portugal of its electric cars in early 2011, making Portugal the first European country to be supplied with electric vehicles from the alliance. In 2012, Nissan and Renault will mass-market electric vehicles globally...

The state will provide an income tax benefit for private buyers of about 800 euros ($1,000) and also tax incentives for companies that convert to electric-powered vehicles. These benefits will start in late 2010 and will last at least five years. Additional measures, such as reduced parking rates, preferential access and financing subsidies are being studied.

Carlos Tavares, executive vice president of Nissan Motor Co, said the design of the electric car was concluded in September. He said the car would be able to run 160 km on one charge, "sufficient for most people's daily needs". ...

The alliance has announced similar electric car partnerships with Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, the U.S. states of Tennessee and Oregon, Sonoma County in northern California, as well as with French utility company EDF [Constellation transmission assets thru the Mid-Atlantic].

Which automakers exactly can afford to produce "near free" vehicles for American "subscribers" is a troubling hurdle once the pilot's complete. Besides current federal limits on EV/PVH vehicle production per manufacturer, irrelevant tax credits (but no "feebates" as in EU), and "Smart Grid" requirements (Title XIII), competition for share with flex fuel (E8) will be stiff.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 04:45:11 AM EST
I worked with Hugo Spowers a couple of years ago in relation to the business model of his Hyrban electric car project, which launched last week.

Hyrban Car

We were looking at cars from the ground up.

Firstly, to build the car around the fuel cell (and his idea there was to find the most cost effective small cell) rather than to stick fuel cells in conventional cars.

Secondly, we were looking at cars as a transport service rather than as the basis for profit making transactions.

Hence his company is not a company but an LLP.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:39:06 AM EST
That's interesting. I came across Spowers while doing some research on car trends. There's another (German) outfit called OScar, doing basically similar stuff. None of this seems to be going forward fast enough. Electric cars are constantly being shifted forward to the future. The Aptera was supposed to be due this month, but no such luck, of course. So either 2010-2012 is going to be a completely awesome time with ten to twenty affordable electric cars, or...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 09:45:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's another (German) outfit called OScar, doing basically similar stuff. None of this seems to be going forward fast enough.

The project was in fact called OsCar when I worked with Hugo, and with German funding (very well known names) came up with a concept car actually produced and exhibited, I think.

The Hyrban is the next step on the way.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:40:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even gas guzzling eight cylinder vehicles take time to defost the windows on a cold winter day.

Power grid strain, costs, taxes and all the rest just make driving a car a privledge of the rich.

Cell phone contracts are the second major reason I don't own one.

by Lasthorseman on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 07:30:55 AM EST
Will a rapid ramp up of production of hybrid and electric cars result in a world-wide shortage of batteries and battery production facilities and materials?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 08:42:36 AM EST
We'll mine lithium in SPACE in the AWESOME FUTURE.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 09:05:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More seriously:

Energy Balance: World Lithium Supplies.

However, the amount of lithium in the world has now been called into question, and one analyst thinks there is much more of it available [1], mostly based in Chile's Atacama desert, amounting to an economically recoverable total of 28.4 million tonnes. Clearly that would be plenty: enough for 1.58 billion PHEV cars or almost 400 million fully electric vehicles, so the physical amount of lithium is not a problem. There are also sources of lithium in the Andes and in Tibet, along with hectorite (a lithium containing clay) and oil-field brines that contain lithium, albeit more expensive to extract than the mountain-sources, and the material should be recycleable, so for example a direct comparison with the oil the technology is intended to replace is not strictly justified.

There are multiple types of battery storage that might work. More for your own research in this search.

We should generally prepare for less cars, more trains, metros, trams, buses and bikes. Not necessarily tomorrow or next year, but over ten to twenty years, a time that fits perfectly well with what you'd want for an infrastructure transition.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 09:07:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The fallacy with electric cars is that batteries can do the job. With a liquid fuel the "overhead" is the weight of the gas tank. With a battery the overhead is the weight of the battery.

There is no comparison of the energy density of one compared with the other. So cars will need to carry around a great deal of weight if they are going to go a decent distance without recharging. GM's Volt will only go 40 miles, which is fine for short range commuting, but not much more.

The solution is to reduce the need for personal transportation, not to try and keep it on life support while the model becomes uneconomic. This means returning to clustered living, putting supplies closer to consumption and jobs closer to homes. Europe may be slightly better than the US in this regard, so people there may not realize how inefficient US land use is.

Then there is the issue of charging all those batteries. Even if done off peak there will be the need to burn fossil fuels to make the electricity.

Modern cars are about 2% efficient, when you consider the entire process of transporting a single individual in a ton of metal. Switching to batteries, even if it doubled "efficiency" would only bring this to 4%.

Electric cars are solving last century's problem, we need to design a new social structure to solve this one's.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 09:41:27 AM EST
for know the good solution seem to be an hybrid that use an inboard small and very efficient generator (fix rpm/ very lean mix/ very reliable) to charge the batteries when not plugged.
by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 09:57:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The weight is only a problem on acceleration and most of that energy should be recaptured on deceleration if magnetic braking is used... For longer or sub/urban journeys I have no argument with your larger thesis

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 10:58:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not an insignificant number of people who travel more than 40 miles round trip every day in the states.  It'd cut down on oil consumption quite a bit, but you also have the obvious problem of the Volt costing $40,000, about 80% of the typical American household's annual income.

The Volt isn't going to save us.  Or GM, for that matter.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There ain't going to be a Volt because there ain't going to be a GM after about a month from now.

Furthermore, the Volt will have a hard time competing with a Prius that has a Lithium battery pack installed. Toyota and Honda have a decade of experience in this field, but GM will be entering the market with a completely new design. Who will want to buy a first-year GM product at any price, let alone at $50k?

by asdf on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 07:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... since they've reached a compromise on using the funds already allocated for a bridging loan, which the President has signaled he will accept.

Whether they will still be there when the Volt is scheduled to roll out, that is a different question.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 10:19:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In today's hybrids, the amount of charge recovered during braking is minimal. Mostly the battery is recharged in the background when you drive on level roads...
by asdf on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 07:59:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 10:57:21 AM EST
Chris Rhodes (second link) wrote in the piece I linked above that the lithium supply might be much larger. So, we don't know yet, and certainly the supply isn't so scarce that the few electric cars we'll see on the market in a few years are irresponsible in some way.

I'd direct my scepticism to the prospect of bringing this to the market in 2011. Electric (and hydrogen, and compressed air) cars have a strong tendency to remain stuck at the pilot stage, if they even make it to and past the prototype stage. Certainly we can't rely on greening cars to be more than a marginal part of the solution we need to be working on now.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 11:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Certainly we can't rely on greening cars to be more than a marginal part of the solution we need to be working on now."

One question is about the problem we are trying to solve. Are we trying to find a solution to my desire to drive to Aspen this afternoon? Or about my wife who drives 10 miles to teach at a middle school--even though we live a couple of blocks from a middle school?

A bit part of the automobile transportation "problem" can be solved by changing expectations.

by asdf on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 10:44:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that the negatives of mobility as we practice it outweigh the positives, something most people haven't been noticing because they deferred payment on those negatives. So the question is, how do you solve this.

One way to solve some though not all of the negatives is to focus on the problem within the confined box of a single technology that delivers mobility; like cars and trucks. Try to get them to use less resources and cause less damage for the same mobility. Another way is to look at the entire network that is delivering mobility, and you'll find that once you go there you can have differences on the order of a magnitude.

This doesn't necessarily come with lowered expectations of what you can do, although substitution of the car is not perfect; you'll have some benefits, some drawbacks.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 06:34:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i was thinking about how food used to be delivered to houses by big vans in the past, the downside is you don't get to see the produce before selecting it.

when you see the supermarket parking lots full of infernal combustion engines carrying away their 1000 mile salads, that could probably be grown on their own rooves, it does make you gag, even you're one of them!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the majority of passenger miles have to be, first, eliminated through development of walkable neighborhoods and, second, shifted to walking, biking and dedicated electric transport corridors.

What is promising about this approach is that it offloads the battery problem from the auto-maker, and without the battery problem electric vehicles are less technically demanding than gasoline vehicles.

Also there is no new technology required ... using battery swap rather than quick-charge means that there battery and charging technology already exists, and the problem of stress on the electrical system is distributed across time of day and, since the capacity of each battery replacement station is laid out to expand in increments, across the roll-out.

Park and ride transit is an important medium term transitional strategy as we shift from inefficient one-size-fits-all transport to efficient transport systems ... and electric cars are especially suited for park and ride commuting.

And of course, the quicker the roll out of dedicated electric transport corridors, the easier it will be for people to shift from 3 car+ households to 2 car households to 1 car households and, ideally, free of car households.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 05:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
right on bruce...

your comment BruceMcF:

dedicated electric transport corridors
made me think of a solar powered moving conveyor strip in the sidewalk/pavement, wide enough to handle wheelchairs, shopping, tired commuters, all the way to close enough to the house that you could do the last hundred yards with the same strategy you already have at the supermarkets, wheeled baskets, that you take to the rack to get your euro back.

just like in airports, if you are in a a hurry, you walk beside it. why not roll these out all over towns and cities?

also, if you had cars charging at home, why not have a spare battery the system can switch to charging when the first one's topped up, and then an inverter or a minimal 12/24 volt system that would power the basics, well pump, central heating pump, computer lights tv, etc in case of blackouts, storms etc?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 11:05:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm thinking of the US, so I'm thinking of a courser grid than that ... electric heavy rail or light rail or Aerobus (suspended light rail) or Trolley buses, stops every half mile to five miles (depending on mode and density), electric bikes and 30mph golf cart style electric vehicles.

But the people mover would be a way to extend the 1/4 mile radius of a walkable precinct around a stop to a 1 mile radius, which is of course 16 times the area covered.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 02:48:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is exactly right.  You have a basic battery pack which works with your vehicle and integrates with the grid and a second battery pack which powers your household systems in case of emergencies.  Add trickle charge solar and human power take off and you have a basic mobility and survival system.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 11:49:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In related BW news: Looks like I'm not the only reader worried that IPO or sale is the exit strategy. (Beats ongoing concern!) Must be something in the (Great Lakes) water that makes Michiganders peckish. (could it be ... CHROMIUM?!)

California wants to raid Big 3 bailout cash for green cars | Detroit News | 4 Dec 2008

Detroit automakers' best hope for Washington aid is a bipartisan plan to speed the release of $25 billion in already-approved loans under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) [HR 6, subtitle B, §135 ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY VEHICLES MANUFACTURING INCENTIVE PROGRAM]. But long-simmering hostilities between the California and Michigan delegations on auto issues threaten the deal. California legislators want that money to subsidize their own Silicon Valley-based auto industry, which they argue is the future of American transportation.

The Detroit Three automakers have driven the perception that the $25 billion package to help pay for "retooling" factories to make more fuel-efficient cars under increased gas mileage standards and a possible additional $25 billion [sic] bridge loan are rescue packages meant for Detroit alone. But a letter from U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thanksgiving Eve makes clear what few taxpayers know: The billions in auto loans are a giant honey pot intended for any auto manufacturer in the nation.

Indeed, Pelosi's July 4 baby, HR 6, qualifies suppliers' tooling and R&D, too! Deadline for disbursement was set for 12 mo from enactment, or right about now. GM began lobbying Dingell in August to facilitate its $3B - $4B application, now ballooned to $34B  (or $25B less Chrysler's meager $6B BUT excluding Ford which claims it might not exactly $9B.) OK.

In fact, Tesla Motors, a struggling San Jose start-up manufacturer of electric cars in Feinstein's back yard, has already applied for $400 million in EISA loans to build a new plant for making a luxury $60,000, battery-powered family sedan. ...

Indeed, Tesla was the first applicant for the loan money, requesting $400 million on Nov. 16 -- three days after the program became official -- to fund its premium "Model S" sedan and an advanced battery facility.

The trouble with government subsidies, however, is that they shield emerging companies from market demands. A closer look at Tesla reveals a high-tech company in deep financial trouble. ...

Ah, yep. Tesla unceremoniously closed its MI facility and laid off 100 in November, one year after opening. A week later CEO Elon Musk was talking smack about IPO likely next year. Irvine-based, Kleiner Perkins financed EV maker Fisker promptly set up shop in Pontiac. Talk about fly-by-night ... talk about two-book TARP "oversight" ...

Is its federal loan application seed money -- or bailout money? Auto analyst James N. Hall sees a grim future for the company: "If the market wants (electric cars) in the number Tesla is talking about," he told Business Week, "a larger auto company will bury them on cost."

Better World should be paying its customers to participate in this parlor piece.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 08:53:01 PM EST
There have been a lot of great comments.  Sorry that I haven't been around to reply but it looks like many with more knowledge picked up the slack.

It is interesting to me that cars seem to hit a nerve every time.  I've never owned a car and haven't driven one in over a decade though I keep a license for ID purposes.  People seem to love the convenience and the mobility and it will take a whole lot to change those habits.

Agassi is an impressive guy.  He doesn't sell his idea.  He explains it.  The model he has outlined looks good.  We'll see if it works as well in Israel, Denmark, Hawaii, and around the Bay area.

What really worries me is that we may not have enough time to make the changes we need.  If Jim Hansen is right we have less than eight years to turn our backs on greenhouse gases.  It takes twelve to fifteen years to replace the fleet of vehicles now on the road.  It takes much longer to change our housing stock.  Business as usual is just not gonna make it but then business as usual doesn't really work any more  as business either.  Time to get real.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 01:07:27 AM EST
... it would take less than eight years to build the infrastructure to shift over half US truck freight ton-miles onto electric rail.

If that the electricity budget for that comes from conservation and unstranding wind resources, that's a good slice of US transport carbon emissions.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 10:08:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tommy Friedman has a non-horrible op-ed on this:

Op-Ed Columnist - While Detroit Slept - NYTimes.com

What business model am I talking about? It is Shai Agassi's electric car network company, called Better Place. Just last week, the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced a partnership with the state of Hawaii to road test its business plan there after already inking similar deals with Israel, Australia, the San Francisco Bay area and, yes, Denmark.

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy -- such as wind and solar -- as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets -- the first pilots were opened in Israel this week -- plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive. G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.

The first electric car to enter the market (aside fo the Tesla Roadster) will probably be Mitsubishi's i MiEV, up in Japan next year.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 10th, 2008 at 08:03:43 AM EST

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