The Case For Better Place: Shai Agassi Addresses The APEC Transport/Energy Ministerial Conference

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

TTAC’s Twitter followers already know that I’m at the 2011 APEC Transport/Energy Ministerial Meeting in San Francisco, rubbing elbows with key decision-makers from the world of energy and transportation across the Asia-Pacific region. Earlier today I had the opportunity to sit down with Better Place CEO Shai Agassi, the intense, formidable CEO of Project Better Place. I’ll be writing about that conversation shortly, but many of the major points are covered in the speech Agassi gave shortly afterwards to assembled ministers, media and businesspeople. The speech boils down Better Place’s hugely ambitious plan to tackle one of the most complex challenges the world faces: transportation’s dependence on oil. If you’re looking for an Al Gore-style “green” speech, keep looking. Agassi tackles the problem from an economic and technological approach, and he makes a case that is well worth about 17 minutes of your time.

If you’re not familiar with Better Place, you can read some of TTAC’s coverage of the battery-swapping, network-managing, mileage-leasing project at our Project Better Place tag here (much of it on-the-ground reporting from Tal Bronfer, who has been following its rollout in the Israeli market). A comparison of battery swap to other EV business models can be found here, and a study of EV grid management issues can be found here.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Sep 13, 2011

    Ed, you missed my contribution on Better Place, which was probably the first, here:

  • Philosophil Philosophil on Sep 14, 2011

    It's definitely an intriguing idea, no question about that. It will obviously be more challenging to set up a network like this in a place like Canada (huge distances with a relatively low population--not to mention the more extreme winter climate), but it's a good idea overall. If something like this does pan out, it will likely change how we think about and differentiate cars and such. It would seem, for example, that enthusiasts would likely have to focus less on things related to the engine (which is always a big debating point in current vehicles) and more on things like suspension, interior features, and so on. If something like this takes off, then I suspect you'll see many enthusiasts lamenting the good old days when cars were engineered with extremely complex internal combustion engines, and so on. In fact, if this takes off many engineers may need retraining...

  • Advo Advo on Sep 15, 2011

    So many questions about this revolutionary plan... Predicting what will happen 5 years into the future is always haphazard, especially now with all the financial stuff going on. As for China, I doubt a country that big can grow that fast with a fixed/static and undervalued currency without inflationary pressures that makes its costs rise, reduces its exporting competitiveness, and forces an economic slowdown. One wonders if that will happen just after 5 years and after oil reaches $200 a barrel. I wouldn't be surprised by the irony of that. Like he said, the economy wouldn't survive oil at $200 per barrel. Will that mean depression and the collapse of oil prices (China and the developing world will be severely affected)? Will governments take emergency steps to implement a charging station system and force automakers to switch to these electric cars before oil reaches such a critical level? (unlikely to get politicians to agree among themselves, would take too long to ramp up battery production, can't produce enough cars to have everyone replace what they have overnight). What is the real price of the car? He claims the cars will be $3000 cheaper than a generic Corolla. That may be in the near future, but right now they're going for NIS 123,000 versus NIS 119,900 for the base Corolla (I could be wrong: I can' read the Yiddish on Toyota's site there). Some US $32,000 for a Corolla means it's highly taxed, but is the Renault Fluence used by them and made in Turkey taxed the same or is it exempt from duties and taxes? The monthly pricing plan in Israel isn't cheap compared to the U.S. Corolla running costs. says an auto Corolla will use $1894 in fuel per year ($3.66/gallon, 15000 miles, 45% hwy, 55% city). Better Place's pricing is NIS 1,090 a month for up to 20,000 km a year, and the costliest is NIS 1,599 for 30,000 km a year. That's US $3516 per year (3.72 exchange rate) or US $5158 per year. Gas would have to be US $8.23 or US $8.05 per gallon for the running price to be the same as the Corolla (based on a Corolla traveling the max 12427 or 18641 miles allowed under the plans at 45% hwy, 55% city). That looks competitive if you're in Israel and Denmark where gas runs about $9 a gallon. The low expected range per battery of 100 miles is also going to be a major stumbling block here assuming that real world range will be a lot less. Go to the local exchange daily or every few days? (I wish the sound was better. Missed all the jokes.),8599,2066975,00.html