Power to the People, Right On


This past weekend I finally got around to reading an article in WIRED’s September issue that a colleague had recommended. It was weighty subject matter for a Sunday, but I’m glad I did. The piece, headlined “Driven”, outlines visionary entrepreneur Shai Agassi’s audacious agenda to put electric cars on the road. It lays out a bold, yet totally believable, plan to transform personal transportation and help achieve global energy independence in our lifetime.

Agassi, a prominent Israeli-born software programmer who switched gears a few years ago to devote his energy toward solving the transportation emissions problem, is turning complex theory into exciting and optimistic reality. Agassi’s environmental engine was sparked in 2005 at a Young Global Leaders conference in Switzerland. Just three years later, he’s already got a country, millions of venture-capital dollars, and automakers on his assembly line.

Early on, the electric car became the focal point of Agassi’s plan. While the idea of electric vehicles is far from new, “Agassi reimagined the entire automotive ecosystem by proposing a new concept he called the Electric Recharge Grid Operator,” writes reporter Daniel Roth.It was an unorthodox mashup of the automotive and mobile phone industries. Instead of gas stations on every corner, the ERGO would blanket a country with a network of ‘smart’ charge spots. Drivers could plug in anywhere, anytime, and would subscribe to a specific plan—unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go—all for less than the equivalent cost for gas. They’d buy their car from the operator, who would offer steep discounts, perhaps even give the cars away. The profit would come from selling electricity”.

In May 2007, Agassi launched Project Better Place, the world’s first global electric-car grid operation. Since then, Agassi has been spreading his vision of Better Place on an international scale. In January 2008, Israel became the first nation in the world to declare a plan for oil independence by 2020. Partnering with Better Place and Renault-Nissan, Israel has committed to widespread deployment of an electric recharge grid to power electric vehicles by 2011. The renewable energy needed for such an operation will be supplied through Israel’s growing solar power sector.

Denmark also jumped on board, in March 2008, when DONG (Danish Oil & Natural Gas) energy company partnered with Better Place and Renault-Nissan to power electric vehicles with energy generated from wind turbines. Renault-Nissan is already developing the first line of battery-powered electric cars for Better Place.

Through Better Place, Agassi is ushering in a new chapter in sustainable, personal transportation. Better place your bets now.

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