Better Place and 100,000 Electric Cars for Israel

Better Place and 100,000 Electric Cars for Israel

Better Place Switch StationThe following is an excerpt from the book Save Gas, Save the Planet. Copyright ©John Addison. All rights reserved.


The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Better Place have signed an agreement to create a mass market for electric vehicles in Israel, an excellent target market for 5 reasons: (1) sales tax exceeds 60 percent for gasoline vehicles, (2) gasoline costs over $6 per gallon, (3) most driving distances fit the range of electric vehicles, (4) the nation does not want to be dependent on foreign oil, and (5) electric vehicles have strong government support.

Better Place plans to deploy a massive network of battery-charging spots. Driving range will no longer be an obstacle because customers will be able to plug their cars into charging units in any of the 500,000 charging spots in Israel. An on-board computer system will indicate to the driver the remaining power supply and the nearest charging spot. Nissan, through its joint venture with Japanese electronic giant NEC, has created a battery pack that meets the requirements of the electric vehicle and will produce it in mass volume.

As part of the solution, the Israeli government will provide tax incentives to customers, Renault will supply the electric vehicles, and Better Place will construct and operate an electric recharge grid across the entire country. Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, predicts that Israel will have over 100,000 electric vehicles in use by 2011. Although his forecast was not achieved in 2011, it is a realistic target. This will be 5 percent of the nation’s vehicle population. The number represents a significant step towards energy independence.

Denmark has agreed to a similar plan. Several United States cities are in early discussions with Better Place. For cities and nations that do not want to depend exclusively on a network of charging stations, Better Place offers an exciting alternative. Just as wireless service providers offer subscription plans with phones at discounted prices, Better Place partnerships may offer discounted electric vehicles with usage pricing plans. Annual use of an EV should be less than the average cost of $8,000 per year in the United States for using a gasoline-powered car.

Is Shai Agassi some idealist who is dreaming the impossible dream? Is he tilting at imaginary windmills? Hardly. Better Place has received over $200 million of venture capital investment. Agassi was a top executive at SAP, a corporation that became a global leader in enterprise software, successfully competing with giants Oracle and IBM.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault, is noted for his financial discipline and corporate turnaround success. He is investing in the future. He sees some markets where his vehicles will be sold without batteries. The batteries will be leased by providers or where the entire electric vehicle will be part of a “subscription plan” such as Better Place.

A convergence of forces including unpredictable oil prices, improved batteries, congestion fees in major cities, and a growing middle class in Asia will cause the rapid expansion from 40 million electric vehicles to over 100 million globally. Today, these vehicles are predominately e-bikes and low-speed electric vehicles. By late 2010, however, you will be able to buy or lease a freeway-speed electric vehicle with a range exceeding 100 miles.

There is a major shift to electric propulsion. In Asia it is widely seen in electric bikes and e-scooters. In the United States, the first wave of popularity has been hybrid electric vehicles using advanced batteries and electric motors that assist smaller gasoline engines. In the United States today, inexpensive electric vehicles are limited to community driving and lack freeway speed and range. Not for long.

If you drive 10,000 miles per year, then you are only driving an average of 27 miles per day. In fact, 80 percent of the time, a United States driver does not exceed 40 miles in one day. Since most United States households have two vehicles, one of their cars could be powered only with electricity.

Yesterday, families and friends insisted that every vehicle be ready to go hundreds of miles on a moment’s notice and be big enough for the heaviest load of the year. Today, people realize that one vehicle can be used to travel 100 miles daily without needing a drop of gasoline. By the end of 2010, consider buying or leasing an electric car.

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Electric Bikes and 100 Million EV Riders

Electric Bikes and 100 Million EV Riders

China BicyclingThe following is an excerpt from the book Save Gas, Save the Planet. Copyright ©John Addison. All rights reserved.


China has more than 450 million bicycles. Jonathan Weinert, working on his PhD at the Institute of Advanced Transportation Studies at U.C. Davis, reported from China, “In a thousand-year-old village in the Shanghai countryside, where people live on a couple dollars a day and the average home lacks a toilet, it hit me (well, almost). I was crossing the intersection and nearly got blind-sided by a surprisingly quiet zero-emission electric bicycle.”

China went from selling 330,000 electric bikes in 2000 to selling 20 million in 2007. Over 1,600 companies, ranging from start-ups to Honda, are competing for the business. Frank Jamerson, coauthor of Electric Bikes/Worldwide Reports, predicts annual global sales of electric bikes and scooters will total about 100 million within ten years.  Electric-powered scooters and motorcycles will soon outsell gasoline-powered scooters and bikes. Accelerating the trend is a growing number of cities that ban gasoline-powered two-wheelers because of air pollution.

Weinert identifies a number of reasons for the exploding growth of e-bikes. They are low cost with many selling for $100 to $300. That’s the price of a good cell phone or iPod. It only costs a little over a dollar to charge the battery for a month’s worth of commuting. It is less expensive to e-bike than to pay for public transportation.

Sales received a big boost when major cities such as Shanghai banned gas-powered scooters and motorcycles in city centers to reduce air pollution. E-bikes fill the void and fit the people’s long history of using bicycles.  E-bikes often navigate stop-and-go traffic at faster speeds than larger vehicles.

“E-bikes are a homerun for cities plagued with poor air quality and governments worried about energy security and future oil supply,” Weinert said. He sees other major benefits of e-bikes such as reducing congestion, more parking in less space, and affordable mobility for millions who cannot afford cars.

In 2006, Weinert became the proud owner of an electric vehicle. “I forked over a whopping $260 (post-haggling, I’ll have you know), for a slick new, sizzling Vespa-style e-bike!” he said. “Life on campus at Tongji University has never been the same. I get a lot of stares/glares as I silently whiz past the crowds of bikers and walkers on their way to class.”

E-bikes are in two broad categories: those that look like bicycles and can be pedaled with human power and those that are scooters. Most have a range of only 30 to 50 miles before recharging. For more money, much greater range can be achieved with e-bikes using li-ion batteries. E-bikes continue to improve with better electric motors and longer battery life. Weinert foresees that other Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand replace polluting scooters with e-bikes.

More than 100,000 e-bikes and e-scooters are sold annually in the United States, and about as many in Europe. In Dallas, Leonard Buhrow sold his Mustang GT convertible and now rides his Tidal Force electric bicycle to work at Texas Instruments, a commuter-friendly employer that offers bike lockers and changing rooms with hot showers. Leonard takes pride that his electric bicycle contains five Texas Instruments digital signal processors. He enjoys his 14-mile, 50-minute commute around White Rock Lake in Dallas and down the White Rock Trail.

You may want to follow Leonard’s example and get an e-bike for local trips. It will save you a bundle in gasoline. E-bikes are perfect for many people because of low cost, mobility, ease of parking and storage. Eventually many of America’s 8 million on-road and off-road motorcycles and scooters may be electric.

As incomes increase, early adopters in China, India and other emerging nations will upgrade to new generations of light electric vehicles. As incomes have increased for many Chinese e-scooter owners, they have upgraded to more expensive zero-emission motorcycles with freeway speeds and ranges approaching 100 miles. Others have bought larger three-wheel electric vehicles with room for two passengers and locked storage.

There is continued innovation in light electric vehicles with three or four wheels that carry increasing numbers of passengers and loads. With the success of light electric vehicles, China is now starting to deploy all sizes of electric vehicles, including electric buses and trucks. Over 10,000 makes and models of electric vehicles are now offered in China.

While United States automakers sue states to stop the regulation of greenhouse gases and fight improved vehicle standards, the auto industry continues to lose market share to a new generation of fuel-efficient and zero-emission vehicles from Asia. The trend is unstoppable. Let us hope that Detroit starts listening to customer demand for fuel efficiency before they lose more customers.

Forty million people ride e-scooters and e-bikes. Globally, over 20 million electric vehicles are sold each year. For many, from a United States college student to a working mother in China, the e-bike is all they can afford. As their incomes rise, these people will want more powerful light electric vehicles. Over 100 million people globally ride in electric vehicles from low range to high, small size to big, low-income to luxury.

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Building a Company: 0 to 60 in 4 Seconds

Building a Company: 0 to 60 in 4 Seconds

Tesla Motors Drive SystemThe following is an excerpt from the book Save Gas, Save the Planet. Copyright ©John Addison. All rights reserved.


In 2007, hundreds of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds and most successful venture capitalists joined with many of California’s political leaders on a Friday night to celebrate California’s Cleantech Revolution and to raise money for the California League of Conservation Voters.

Many arrived in fuel-efficient hybrids. Martin Eberhard, then CEO and founder of Tesla Motors, arrived in a Tesla Roadster, a zero-emission vehicle that can accelerate from zero to 60 in 4 seconds. As I talked with him, it was easy to see why he was smiling.

When I rode in the Tesla, I held on as it accelerated, then held on to my wallet as I left this dream sports car. Hundreds had placed orders for Tesla Roadsters with 100 percent deposits of about $100,000 per auto. If you wanted this sports car, you needed to get in line behind Arnold Schwarzenegger, Google founders, and other luminaries who were eagerly awaiting their electric sports car.

With the average American household having two or more cars, the Tesla’s range is perfect for over 90 percent of Americans’ daily range. In less than 4 hours, typically while the vehicle is parked in the garage, the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries can be recharged with a 220v outlet.

“Tesla intends to become a major car company with a full line of highly efficient – but also highly desirable – electric cars,” Eberhard said in 2007. “Our strategy is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then move down-market as quickly as possible to higher production levels and lower prices with each successive model. This strategy also allows us to change radically the public perception of electric cars, opening the market for a full spectrum of electric car models.”

While major automakers are betting on new lithium battery chemistry in larger form factors, Tesla integrates 6,831 consumer-electronic-sized lithium batteries into an Energy Storage System, lowering the battery cost. Millions of these smaller batteries are made in high-volume, low-cost manufacturing. Amp hours keep increasing; prices keep falling.

Will advanced battery vehicle packs become affordable for most of us? The energy density of lithium-ion batteries has improved 500 percent in 15 years. With new energy storage chemistry, future electric vehicles could go much further at even lower cost. Japan’s METI has published a roadmap to reduce battery power cost 40 times by 2030, but a roadmap does not guarantee that this will happen. Experts debate whether battery costs can be significantly lowered.

Big-time success will not be easy for Tesla. Classic start-up problems delayed early deliveries of the Roadster by 18 months and pushed back plans for future five-seat sedans. Hundreds of pounds of weight needed to be added to the vehicle to meet established safety laws. Problems with a transmission supplier caused delays and ultimately resulted in software changes eliminating the need for a transmission. Tesla Motors is finding the field crowded with other automakers rolling out electric cars. Tesla is now financially strapped, going to Washington D.C. and asking for hundreds of millions in financial help. Tesla does deserve credit for generating renewed excitement for electric vehicles.

Tenacity paid-off. Tesla brought its exciting Roadster to market. The breakthrough 300-mile range Tesla Model-S Sedan is being ordered by the thousands. You can now drive the Roadster zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Strategy for 2012


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Fueling Our Cars – Oil, Coal or Sunlight

Fueling Our Cars – Oil, Coal or Sunlight

Tesla Solar Charging RabobankThe following is an excerpt from the book Save Gas, Save the Planet. Copyright ©John Addison. All rights reserved.


Environmentally concerned car buyers worry that that switching to an electric vehicle does not help. They are concerned that instead of using one fossil fuel, petroleum, another will be used, coal. Many electric vehicles are three times more efficient than vehicles that run on gasoline. Mitsubishi Motors, an early leader in electric vehicles, estimates EV efficiency at 67 percent instead of 30 percent for a hybrid-electric and 15 percent for a normal gasoline vehicle.

Electric vehicles are more efficient for many reasons including the efficiency of electric motors. As an added bonus, electric vehicles can be lighter, using accessories that run on electricity not mechanical links to the drive system. Regenerative braking helps. Weight can be distributed more effectively in a vehicle. Best of all, the fuel can be local renewable energy not gasoline processed from foreign oil. Electricity is cheap compared with fuel from oil.

Lifecycle analysis using the coal-dominate United States energy mix shows less total greenhouse gas emissions from a battery electric vehicle than a comparable gasoline vehicle or even a hybrid. A good place to look at lifecycle comparisons is the Argonne National Laboratory, which publishes comparative studies and offers an extensive GREET spreadsheet tool for any organization to use.

Electric vehicle lifecycle emissions will usually be lower than the coal model. Over 25,000 of the first 40,000 electric vehicles sold in the United States are in California, where electric utilities are legally required to use a growing mix of renewable energy. Under a study commissioned by the California Air Resources Board, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard Technical Analysis showed that a unit of energy from California’s typical electric mix caused 27 grams of CO2 equivalent; from gasoline, 92 grams.

In reality EV emissions are still lower because many people are charging their vehicles at night when electricity would otherwise be wasted. Nighttime charging will increase as electric utilities install smart-meters that can be programmed to charge vehicles when rates are lowest. Nighttime rates are often only one-third of peak rates. Many buyers of electric vehicles also buy renewable energy credits or use solar power for charging.

While electricity is getting progressively cleaner as states mandate increased use of renewables, incremental gasoline is produced from sources with increasing greenhouse gases such as tar sands, coal to liquid, and the contemplated nightmare of oil from shale.

Save Gas BookGet your discounted paperback or eBook copy of Save Gas, Save the Planet at Amazon. Gain a comprehensive understanding of electric cars, low-carbon fuels, and sustainable transportation.