Better Place: Turning Israel into electric car country
Israel could be the first country with a nationwide electric car network, thanks to Better Place. A battery swapping station just opened outside Tel Aviv.
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"What Better Place is doing is definitely preferable to running on gasoline or diesel, and they have a large advantage in that they are moving the pollution from city centers to the periphery," says Dana Tabechnik, a lawyer specializing in air pollution and energy at the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense. But because the electricity will come from coal- or gas-fired power plants, she says, "there is no reduction in greenhouse gases."Skip to next paragraph
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Another concern is how the majority of customers will power their cars. The Fluence ZE will be Israel's first mass-market electric car, but other importers are looking to bring in competitors. Israeli regulators are now drafting the standards for car charging, and they include a prohibition on plugging into regular home outlets. (The ban would not target Better Place's home stations.) According to the Ministry of National Infrastructures, this is for safety. But Mr. Rivlin says it gives Better Place a leg up because they already have charging spots set up nationwide.
"What we see here is a monopoly of the supply of electricity by Better Place," Rivlin says.
Better Place spokeswoman Julie Mullins says customers should not have to pay for electricity at home twice when their monthly subscription fee already includes energy for fill-ups, along with car software that helps drivers find power stations for long trips. Plugging into a system monitored by Better Place also allows the company to manage how much electricity it uses at any point, to prevent regional overloads. Further, the company uses the standard international plug for electric cars, so the cars will charge off any legal socket.
Better Place "welcomes any competitor that will enable competition and mass transition to electrical transportation," Ms. Mullins wrote in an e-mail.
Better Place plans to be completely up and running by early 2012. More than 70,000 people have visited the Better Place showroom in Tel Aviv since it opened in February 2010.
Denmark is roughly on the same track. In early March, Better Place announced the pricing scheme there, which will be about $38,000 for the car, an additional $1,909 for a home charging station, and a monthly subscription fee of between $283 to $567, depending on miles driven. Israeli prices have yet to be announced.
The electric car will not be an all-around environmental solution. But Better Place holds that there is only so much the average person will do for the planet. "Asking people not to drive is not a reality we live in," Mullins says. "People need their cars. They need to get to work. So if we can do it in a way that's cleaner and that helps create a market for renewable energy, then that's a great step forward."