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Would it be the end of long tail pipe?

October 5, 2008

How would you run an entire country without oil, without taking the help of any innovative technology, without any government assistance, and with a specific time frame to get off the oil completely?

Shai Agassi says he has a plan to achieve this wonderful feat. In fact, he is already half way through it. Two countries, Israel and Denmark, have already agreed to work with him in promoting electric cars. Inspired by his initiatives, Israel has already announced that it would electrify all its vehicles by next decade. In January this year, Israel announced that tax on electric vehicles would be only 10 percent of their price compared to 80 percent on that of gasoline vehicles.

Until recently very few people knew Shai Agassi. But he is now hailed as “part scientist, part visionary, with a lot of salesman thrown in.” He is listed in Times’ “Heroes of Environment 2008“. He is an Israeli scientist and entrepreneur who founded a small software company which was later acquired by the SAP, worlds’ third largest software company and largest vendor of enterprise software, for whopping US$ 400 millions. He joined SAP as per the sale agreement and soon rose to senior ranks mainly because of his out-of-box thinking. He was head of products and was in line to become the CEO of the company.

As a member of “Young Golden Leaders,” he participated in a seminar held at a Swiss resort Zermatt to “make the world better place” by 2020. This proved to be a turning point of his life. He then began focusing on environmental problems facing the world. After deliberations with experts and a lot of research on carbon economy and energy  policies, he came to conclusion that only by ending the addiction to depleting fossil fuels could the world be saved. To achieve his goal, he targeted transportation sector as it is the major consumer of fossil fuels. With the limited time frame and less scope for new innovations, he tried to find a solution which could liberate the world from the oil addiction. The only solution seemed to replace oil-consuming and co2 spewing cars with electric cars. The problem of battery need to be sorted out before doing that. Shai came with a clever plan: a complete electric car system that will much work like a mobile phone system. Encouraged by the Israeli leader Shimon Peres, he quit his job and raised US$ 200 million for his project “Better Place”, which is considered to be world’s second largest start-up venture.

He separated the ownership of car and battery. He sorted out the battery problem by simply providing the option of swapping it away. The customers will not be charged for cars but for the electricity they spend. He proposed the concept called Electronic Recharge Grid Operator. A network of powerspots would be built all over the nation–homes, workplaces, downtown and parking lots–to top up the batteries. There is another option for those who want to go on long drive. The batteries can be swapped at battery swapping stations similar to gasoline stations. Shai claims that customers can own a  cool car which can go 0-60 km in seven and half seconds and with zero emissions if they can afford to spend US$ 500 per month which is almost equal to thier average current monthly gasoline bills.

Think of benefits accrued from saving huge sums of money spent on importing oil and saving the environment, the plan looks awesome. Shai claims that nearly 30 countries have already come forward to implement his plan to get off the oil. The auto industry is set for a complete change in the existing paradigm. However, the markets which are deeply entrenched in the oil may resist the change initially. The developing countries like China and India should come forward to welcome these oil-deaddiction plans and try to adopt in their countries. China has responded very quickly. Read this. I feel that this idea may not be suitable to large countries like India where power failures are a frequent phenomenon but they should devise necessary plans to  save their countries from excessive oil import bills.

I wish it is implemented in India. Maybe in near future, we could come across electric cars zooming every road of India, powerspots in every home and small-scale power generation centres spread across every village of India, providing clean energy and generating employment to millions of people.

Read more at: Wired Magazine.

Also, know more about Agassi’s ideas from his blog.

Also read this blog.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2008 11:05 pm

    This will be very interesting. Very informative article! I always loved the concept of an electric car, hopefully it will materialize soon.

  2. October 16, 2008 10:15 pm

    Nice post. The title is very good. I see an electric car often at Khairatabad on my way to office. Hope to see more of such cars.

  3. October 17, 2008 11:05 pm

    We need more such Shai Agassi’s to make the world a better place to live. We too can contribute by saving energy wherever possible.

  4. December 21, 2008 7:41 pm

    You still need Oil or something else to generate the electricity.

    Honda has a hybrid car in India that works on a combination of electricity and fuel. While it’s on fuel it charges the battery, once charged, you can ride on electricity and once it’s drained you go back to fuel

    • December 24, 2008 2:58 pm

      Various other non-conventional options to generate electricity could be utilised at Powerspots wherever possible. Take the example of Denmark, it is planning to use its potential to generate electricity through wind energy for the powerspots.

  5. December 31, 2008 10:03 am

    nice blog!

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