Yesterday was a big day for electric cars in Israel and the world. The Better Place company, whose car I have now placed a deposit on, handed over 80 cars to their employees. Arutz 7 (Israel National News) has the most comprehensive report in English so far which includes a good video piece in English.
I want to highlight a major point. The cars are built within a Renault chassis and Renault have been a vital partner for Better Place, but the main technological innovation comes from Israel. I’ve been told that the cars could have been built in Israel but negotiations with the government for infrastructure were not successful. That’s a pity but it’s not a disaster because the intellectual jobs and the creation of the most valuable intellectual property remain in Israel. The secret sauce includes:
- outstanding software and control systems that regulate the car and battery;
- very sophisticated GPS system that calculates the predicted charge you’ll have at the end of your journey and offers to take you via suitable battery swap stations if necessary;
- engineering of the battery replacement system that lets you swap to a new battery in less time than it takes to pump a tank of gas;
- creative financial packaging of the lease of a battery and the electricity to fill it to use with cars that are sold to owners;
- negotiations behind the scenes to buy electricity at the bulk level so the individual owners can charge their cars anywhere and at a fixed price for up to 4 years;
- creative vision that swapping out the largest single part of the car is actually even possible!
Longer term Better Place is looking at what to do with batteries that reach their end of life for electric vehicles, ideas include power storage for remote developing villages and for overnight storage of excess generated power. They are also in demand for use with various “green” power generation methods like wind and solar that deliver fluctuating supply. The point is that even when a battery has dropped to only being able to hold 80% of it’s original design charge, which is not enough for the vehicle use, there will be a much longer life for these expensive batteries. Fundamentally, because the battery is very easily removable and is not the property of the owner, the management of the battery inventory is much better handled centrally than by individual owners trying to eek out the maximum life from their battery.