Imagine there was a new way to charge an electric car that was as quick as filling up a tank of gas. What if you had the option of plugging your car into a vast network of charging stations or — if you needed to drive longer distances — were able to simply swap out your run-down battery with a fully charged one in locations as numerous as today's gas stations?
The dawn of this new paradigm is now. Better Place, as founder Shai Agassi explains, plans to revolutionize the way we look at the electric car by “putting a massive extension cord across the entire country.”
Better Place is teaming with Renault-Nissan to offer the option to buy or lease a vehicle. Agassi's company would streamline the way we fuel these vehicles by having the driver purchase miles on their car's battery much like cell phone users pay for minutes. As Thomas Friedman of the New York Times explains, “G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.”
Enthusiastically backed by President Shimon Peres, Better Place signed its first deal with Israel, and hopes to be up and running there in 2011. Better Place plans to start setting up shop soon in the Bay Area and Hawaii, with the goal to be fully operational by 2012.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm met with Agassi in November in hopes of attracting the new start-up and the resulting manufacturing jobs to her much-beleaguered state. November's unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in the Great Lake State, which the New York Times called "ground zero in the national economic downturn."
On January 7, A123 Systems — a battery manufacturer and partner of Better Place — announced plans to build the first of two proposed battery factories in southeast Michigan. Combined, the two plants would create more than 14,000 much needed jobs. This alone would be a big economic boost to an area of the country that sorely needs it.