Tuesday, October 26, 2010

(ENVIRO) Electric Car Fleet To Hit The Road In Israel

"Israeli drivers will be the first in the world to test a fleet of 100,000 electric cars and the sceptics will be watching closely.

The Renault Fluence ZE, or zero emission, looks nothing like the weird-shaped machines some might associate with early electric cars.

It looks and runs like your typical family sedan.

Israeli entrepreneur Tal Agassi runs the company Better Place, one of the world leaders in developing electric car technology, with his brother Shai.

If they get their way, the Renault Fluence may well go down in history as the electric equivalent of the T-model Ford.

'The tipping point is going to be faster than what the market thinks,' he said.

'We believe that once people drive those cars and understand [that they are] not limited and have a better car for a cheaper cost, it will be a no-brainer for people to move from gasoline cars to [electric cars].'

Mr Agassi's company plans to roll out the first of 100,000 fully electric cars onto Israeli roads next year.

'We have signed today, up to date about 150 companies, big fleets that have thousands of cars,' he said.

'We have about a potential of 50,000 to 60,000 cars. They're already lined up and signed up today.'

'In 2011 when we launch the market we will have low thousands of cars, but from everything we're seeing today, the demand for those cars is going to be very high, [we are] probably not going to have enough cars here in Israel to supply all the demand in year one.'

What makes this electric car different from earlier prototypes is the system for recharging or changing the battery so that drivers can stay on the road even after the battery goes flat.

Better Place will own the battery and drivers will sign up for a package of kilometres, not unlike a mobile phone plan.

Instead of having to recharge the battery on long trips, they would simply drive into a switching station and swap it for a new one.

'You will go to a petrol station but you'll switch your battery. The way people will get energy is by going to a charge point,' Mr Agassi said.

'We will install thousands of charge spots at homes, at work, public locations and most people will charge overnight.

'But in addition to that for those people who drive for long distances they will go through a switch station.'

Mechanics at the company's headquarters near Tel Aviv will happily show you that a battery can be changed in less time than it takes to fill a petrol tank.

Within two years Better Place plans to install 70 switching stations all over Israel, meaning motorists could drive as long and as far as they want.

But there are plans too to roll out the same infrastructure in Australia from late next year, starting in Canberra and southern New South Wales.

Evan Thornley, the chief of Better Place Australia, predicts Australia's entire car fleet will be electric within 20 years.

'For 80 per cent of all Australian drivers we're confident they'll look at the network coverage map and see nowhere that they would want to drive that they couldn't do in an electric car,' he said.

'But there'll obviously be some people, the remaining 20 per cent, for whom that won't be the case on day one ... but I'm sure we'll reach out to the rest of them over the coming decade.'

In the longer term Better Place, in both Israel and Australia, says the car's popularity will in turn provide an incentive for power companies to switch to renewable fuels like wind or solar or hydro-electricity.

But as convincing as the company's advertising might be, there are sceptics.

Nitzan Avivi, the editor of Israel's Auto Magazine, says even the best car battery cannot match a full tank of petrol.

'The official range of the car is 200 kilometres which probably will mean that you can drive about 150 kilometres more or less, and that means that every hour or so you'll have to be looking for a replacement station and that's a problem if you're driving outside the city,' he said.

Mr Avivi says electric cars are not the environmental solution they are cracked up to be.

'Transportation consumes about 10 to 15 per cent of energy in the world,' he said.

'Even if all the cars will be, let's say solar, which can't happen, still you have 85 per cent electricity in houses, for industry.

'So even if all the cars will be electric and all of them will be powered by wind electric, electricity, it would still not be enough. It won't save the world.'" (source)

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