Burying The Lead – Better Place And The Smart Grid

I have an article today published at The Jewish Press about Better Place and it’s innovative oil free transport system. If you’re new to Better Place or my work I really encourage you to read the full article there.

I’ve not written there before and so their readership is not as familiar with Better Place as anyone who follows my work here at Israellycool would be. For that reason I had to put in quite a bit of background before I got to the bit I really wanted to talk about: how Better Place’s smart system of choosing which batteries to send power to make it a game changer and so much more than what it appears to be.

The story also draws on reports (only in Hebrew I’m afraid, Arutz 7, Calcalist) from the Israeli press that the Israeli Electric company has banned (or at least thrown enough regulation up so as to ban) the use of any other plug in electric cars in Israel. Here is the end of the article for those of you already up to speed with the bulk of the Better Place story:

But why the need to prohibit by law, other electric cars in the Israeli market and why is nobody screaming about the lack of generating capacity to service this new fleet of electric cars?

At this point It’s useful to know that Better Place’s founder, Shai Aggasi built a successful software company in Israel. This was bought by SAP which led him to be number two at the German software giant and in line to be the youngest ever CEO of a Fortune 100 company. After a discussion at Davos he mysteriously left his position at SAP 5 years ago only to pop up a few months later with a hair-brained idea to cut Israel’s (and later the world’s) dependence on oil for transportation. Better Place is not a car company, it’s an infrastructure builder and an operator of a network: more like a mobile phone network operator than a builder and seller of cars.

Better Place is doing something unique with their network. Every single charge point connected to a battery is monitored and controlled centrally. The rate of charge can be individually tailored. Better Place receives a minute by minute update from the Israeli electric grid on how much capacity there is spare in the system. Better Place has a proprietary system to prioritise power delivery. A car with a 90% battery, charging at a place of work that won’t be needed for 6 hours (when it’s driver might only need 40% to get home) can have it’s charging current reduced or cut. A car that has 5% battery and is a 60 mile drive from the nearest battery switch can keep charging.

With this astonishing capability Better Place becomes a huge net benefit instead of a drain. All electric grids must run with surplus power all the time. As the number of cars in a Better Place network increases it becomes a massively distributed storage system for excess capacity the likes of which has never been seen. Once you understand this, prohibiting uncontrolled charging of electric cars in Israel makes more sense.

Of course there needs to be careful scrutiny of Better Place: they will be in the position of a monopoly provider because there is nobody even contemplating a competing system to completely bypass oil for transport. It’s akin to the earliest roll out of mobile phone networks before anyone had fully understood how successful investment in network infrastructure would be. Certainly it looks, on the face of it, grossly uncompetitive that Israel has effectively prohibited the use and import of Nissan’s Leaf all electric car or “range extended” electric cars like the plug in Prius or Chevy Volt (sold as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera in Europe & UK). But we are at an early stage in infrastructure development where pioneers need to see some reward for risk taking, without regulation killing an idea before it has a chance.

The next country for a roll out after Israel is Denmark. Why Denmark? Denmark has invested heavily in wind power but, as with many forms of renewable energy, this unreliable power source has not allowed Denmark to reduce its fixed generating capacity as much as they had expected. Once they understood the Better Place network capability, they pursued Better Place.

A network of smartly controlled electric vehicles can become a very useful energy storage system into which Denmark can load the peaks from their wind generation leaving more reliable fossil systems to carry the main fluctuating load. It’s never been economically viable to build hugely expensive banks of static lithium batteries just for this job, but when you split them up, put them in cars and sell subscriptions, suddenly you have a win wind economic model.


About Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian's interests include electric cars, world peace and an end to world hunger. Besides blogging here, Brian of London now writes at the Times of Israel. Brian of London also hosted Shire Network News

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Facebook Comments

  • Jim from Iowa

    For the American market, it’s important to answer one essential question: “Can you fit a gun rack in one of those Israeli electric cars?”

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London


      Now that the recent hoopla concerning gun racks in the Chevy Volt has had a few days to die down, I’ve got a confession to make.

      I’m a Republican, and I love the Chevy Volt.

    • Norman B.

      More to the point, for the American market, is there a way to reduce resistance and power loss in long distance electricity transmission? A solution to that would do the most to getting us off oil and restructuring the grid toward central solar generation in the southwest.

      • ziontruth

        “…getting us off oil and restructuring the grid toward central solar generation in the southwest.”

        Without a technological breakthrough, solar panels even in the sunniest places on earth can’t provide cost-effectively the amount of power currently provided by coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear fission. The trouble with technological breakthroughs is the same as with generating the requisite 1.21 GW (whichever way you pronounce it) of electricity: You never know when or where they’re going to strike.

        I’m not saying research on making solar and wind power more efficient should be called off—though all the money expended on the global warming scam certainly should—but the time, money and brains should be spent where less of a breakthrough, or none at all, is needed. Namely:

        1) On making nuclear fusion work for power plants.

        2) In the meantime, on making nuclear fission reactors safer.

        Although nuclear fusion still doesn’t work, making it work isn’t about a breakthrough so much as it is about practical implementation—somewhat like the challenge of building a marine chronometer in the 18th century, when everyone knew what had to be done but it took time to find out how to do it in practice. Making solar and wind power cost-effective, however, is more akin to alchemy or faster-than-light space travel, as there isn’t yet even a theoretical basis for doing it. In all fairness, I’m not saying there could never be; it’s just too much of a wildcard right now.

        Nuclear power. Safer fission plants, then fusion plants. There’s no other sustainable choice, no matter what the hippies say. One day we’ll do it the way God made the star we’re orbiting. The electricity for powering those new cars has to come from somewhere, and nuclear is the only source up to scratch.

        • Jim from Iowa

          You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. Ground control to Major Newt. How’s your moonbase coming along? I was going to give up IsraellyCool for Lent, but this is just too much damn fun!

          • mzk1

            You might be interested in the fact that Israel does commnonly use one form of solar energy – every apartments typically have two heating meothos, solar and the electric (or the “Boiler” as we say in “Hebrew”).

            So before you go tosllep you make an investment decision – do I turn the boiler on or take a chance on having a cold shower in the morning.

        • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

          While I do think Nuclear can be a big part of the answer a couple of minor things.

          We don’t need to stop burning stuff because man made climate change is a myth and CO2 is not a poison.

          We only need to reduce oil use in transport by 20 to 30% and we’ll crush the OPEC cartel. They’ll be enough non-Arab production to take away their big stick. Prices can fall to $30 to $40 and the price will be in the hands of the buyers. Jihad will be defunded.

          We have enough fuel, we just need to remove control of it from people who hate us.

          • Jim from Iowa

            Repeating something over and over again won’t make it come true, Brian. Well, at least not in the field of Science, anyway. There is scientific consensus that man-made climate change is real. It was in all the papers, scientific and otherwise. Here’s some more fun facts to enjoy:

            The earth is more than 10,000 years old. Dinasaurs roamed the Earth hundreds of millions of years before man evolved into his present form. Natural selection is the best explanation for how all the creatures on Earth got here. Putting pop rocks and diet Coke in your mouth at the same time will not cause an explosion, but apparently some electronic cigarettes will.

            • Norman B.

              The so-called scientific consensus contains much dissent within and was assembled and is policed through fraud and corruption. I am as skeptical as Nobel physicist Ivar Giaever. There have been many climate changes in the earth’s natural history and life has adapted every time.

              • Jim from Iowa

                I can only site the National Academy of Sciences as the basis of my statement. They maintain that the earth is warming and that man is probably the most significant contributor to this climate change. Scientists disagree with one another all the time. This is the nature of science. But most of the people who call climate change a scam have a political agenda and are not merely misinformed or part of an honest disagreement on the interpretation of scientific data.

                • Shy Guy

                  Pathetically naive, as always.

                  • Jim from Iowa

                    If I’m pathetically naive, then you’re at least consistently obdurate in referencing questionable sources with a political agenda. How can you be so critical of the main stream media and then blithely wallow in this right-wing tripe? What political agenda does the National Academy of Sciences have? Or Bill Nye the Science Guy? Or Tinky Winky the purportedly gay Teletubby? Come toward the light of knowledge and rational thought, Shy Guy, before it’s too late.

                    • ziontruth

                      “…questionable sources with a political agenda.”

                      Which you aren’t guilty of citing, right. /sarc

                      “…then blithely wallow in this right-wing tripe?”

                      Ask yourself the same about left-wing tripe and see where it gets you.

                      “…scientists without a political agenda…”

                      You believe they exist? I presume you also believe in honest politicians, or unicorns… yet you dare to accuse people of irrationality.

                      Speaking of which, that bit you wrote above:

                      “The earth is more than 10,000 years old. Dinasaurs roamed the Earth hundreds of millions of years before man evolved into his present form. Natural selection is the best explanation for how all the creatures on Earth got here.”

                      Let me tell you something. Society employs scientists to bring practical benefits to it, in the form of new technology, cures for disease and the like. Not for philosophizing about the origins of the universe, the earth and the species, the revolutions of the planets or other stuff like that that’s the province of navel-gazers with too much time on their hands. All the findings of “science” you quote above are nothing but scientists’ overreach and slacking off their duty to stray into other fields. It’s all philosophy, those “facts” you quote above. Now, they may be true—and I have no problem with them being so—but studying those things is not in a scientist’s job description. Scientists exist for furthering practical gains and should leave philosophy to the philosophers and morality to the custodians of the Torah.

            • Mark in Texas

              Human activity might explain the warming that we experienced up until the late 1990s but so far I have not seen any convincing model that explained the global warming during the time of the Roman Empire when European temperatures were apparently higher than they are today. Those models also don’t explain the decline in temperatures during the Dark Ages or the warming during the Middle Ages or the Little Ice Age that ended only in the 19th century.

              I realize that arguing with faithful advocates of anthropogenic global warming like you is as pointless as arguing with young earth creationists since all of you folks are immune to facts and logic but at least in their case the creationists don’t pretend that the dispute is in the realm of science rather than faith.

              • Jim from Iowa

                I am not a scientist, Mark, but I do believe what scientists without a political agenda tell us about what they have found based on the scientific method. This is what rational people do in this complicated world filled with people who peddle wide-ranging conspiracies founded on dark motives. So you really are not arguing with me. You are denying the overwhelming evidence produced by the vast majority of the scientific community who know what they’re talking about.

            • mzk1

              Are you honestly saying that there were pre-humans simultaneous with dinosaurs? Is that the Dr. Hanna and Prof. Barbara theory?

              • Jim from Iowa

                The “Origin of Species” does lay out evolutionary theory that species evolve into other species and has nothing to do with “The Flintstones.” Haven’t you ever seen that chart that lays out how man evolved from primordial sludge? This is much easier to swallow than the tall tales the Methodist Church was peddling in sunday school from the biblical story of Genesis, I can tell you.

                • mzk1

                  You implied that pre-humans lived simultaneously with the dinosaurs. I don’t think any evolutionary biologist believes that. Some young earth creationists might.

                  Darwinian evolution? Really? You are aware that it was basically disproven and replaced with the synthetic theory maybe a century ago? I think we’re one or two theories past that; I’ve lost track. Do you also believe in the ether and causuality? Ever hear of Einstein?

          • ziontruth

            “We don’t need to stop burning stuff because man made climate change is a myth and CO2 is not a poison.”

            I know. But peak oil, coal and natural gas are not myths, and even right now there’s the slight problem—as you also mention—with oil that it bankrolls global Islamic imperialism.

            “We have enough fuel,…”

            Don’t bank on it outlasting the exponentially growing demand. Only nuclear is long-term viable.

            “…we just need to remove control of it from people who hate us.”

            That means one of three possibilities:

            1) Your proposal of not using Islamic sources. The problem is it reduces an already shrinking pie of fuel sources.

            2) Confiscating their fuel sources. But that means more wars and the risk of repeating Bush the Younger’s nation-building fantasies.

            3) Circumventing it all through the nuclear route, which is geopolitically unencumbered (more so when we find out how to make fusion work, since seawater and lithium are immensely abundant and spread across the globe).

            • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

              Just remember, we don’t need to stop using oil, we just need to have competing systems. As scarcity makes one more expensive, others can pop up. We don’t need to stop buying their Jihad oil, we just need to reduce their margin so they don’t get so much of our wealth. They’ve had a total monopoly on transport for 100 years: that is what needs to change.

              • ziontruth

                “We don’t need to stop buying their Jihad oil, we just need to reduce their margin so they don’t get so much of our wealth.”

                Surely you jest? Every penny we pay them gets used for building hate-indoctrinating mosques and madrassas. The cutoff needs to be complete—not immediately, I realize that’s impossible, but that should be the goal.

            • mzk1

              Is peak oil real? The definition of it seems to be based on how expensive it is to extract. Do we really know how much we have?

              We should do everything, in reasonable proportion. We need to drill in ANWR, build the Canadian pipeline (if only out offoreign policy considerations), find legal remedies to the lawfare that Ralph Nader used (I remember this) to single-handedly destory the US Nuclear industry, etc. OK, no windmills.

        • mzk1

          Well, as someone whose family lived at tHree Mile Island during the accident, nuclear plants are plenty safe now. Basing on what I learned from my Dad, a real scientist reading real scientific literature (as opposed to Jim reading whatever he reads), we have actually learned since Hiroshima that radiation is not as dangerous as we thought.

          We have seen plenty of worst case scenarios with Nuclear, and the damage has been slight. Compare that to hydorelectric, for example (the dam breaks and ten of thousands of people drown) or coal. Oil kills people more indirectly.

          Disposal is an issue, but that is political. There are Luddites out there simply trying to stop energy from being produced, period.

  • http://www.green-and-energy.com Olmo

    thanks for the nice article. I wish btplc will be able to start with full power and spread in many countries.


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  • Mark in Texas

    I don’t know how the Israeli law is written, but it might be wise to allow other electric cars to charge during off peak hours. Most electric generating networks produce enormous amounts of excess power between 11 PM and 6 AM. That power mostly goes to waste. Of course, being able to charge your car only at night is a whole lot less convenient than what Better Place offers but it does offer an alternative to granting them a monopoly on electric vehicles while not putting any additional load on the Israeli electrical generating and transmitting infrastructure.

    But what I really wanted to comment on was admiration for using some infrastructure improvements to massively leverage off the existing infrastructure and create a much greater system. The wealth created is much more than the sum of the inputs. I suggest that some similar process could be applied to Israel’s security needs. Better Place has created a method to deliver electricity to wherever it is most needed. I would suggest that apps for smart phones could be used in concert with the phone’s GPS function to calculate artillery firing solutions. That would help in the delivery of high explosive projectiles to the places where they are most needed. Then, like Better Place is installing more battery replacement stations and charging stations, Israel needs to obtain more artillery tubes. The United States, and most NATO countries are phasing out their M110 self propelled 8 inch artillery. For the same reasons that the Merkava tank works well for Israel but would not be suitable for the United States, those M110 artillery pieces will work well for Israel even though they no longer fit the needs of the United States Army. The M110 can drop a 200 pound projectile accurately 10 miles away. If the reservists living within 10 miles of Gaza or Lebanon have an M110 parked a few blocks away from their home or workplace and a smart phone to alert them when a UAV has sighted people positioning rocket for launch, they can start raining down several hours of artillery on the site of the rockets. In short order, one of the indications that somebody is doing something nefarious will be that UAVs will detect people swarming out of an area.

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

      There is no infrastructure for differential night time charging in Israel. In the UK we had this and I had an overnight electric water storage heater and overnight heaters that warmed up big bricks to slowly release heat during the day. We had three different metered rates.

      Obviously Better Place will be doing differential charging based on time of day and they’ll be paying accordingly. Because of the central control this can happen without the need to install expensive new infrastructure at the homes of all the consumers: just a regular grid hookup with a one tariff meter.

      As to crowd sourcing artillery spotting; I don’t think we’re ready for that yet!

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