Better Place, the brain child of Israeli born Shai Agassi, is making an impact worldwide, and that is even before one car has hit the streets. Better Place is the first company of its kind to develop an economically viable model to propagate the mass the production and purchasing of electric vehicles based on a subscription service. The subscription service, described as being similar to a cell phone subscription, means that the battery belongs to Better Place and depending on the package, the consumer will have various choices of charging and battery replacement centers throughout the country. Better Place has companies operating in Israel, Denmark, and Australia, with further work being done to develop market opportunities in the United States, Canada, and Japan.
Israel has stated a goal to achieve oil independence by 2020 and Better Place is a large step in that direction. According to research, 57% of Israelis would purchase an electric car as their next car purchase and being that Israel’s major urban centers are less than 150 km apart from one another, and 90% of Israel’s drivers drive less than 70km per day, an electric car system may actually be viable. Current research shows that vehicles are the number one contribution to air pollutants in Israel and switching to a no emissions vehicle is a good idea to cut down on air pollution.
The center piece of the electric vehicle is the lithium battery. Which according to one news report is “Made from nontoxic materials, today’s lithium-ion batteries have unprecedented safety. A lithium-ion battery can also be recycled with minimal environmental impact. More than 95% of the battery materials can be recovered and reused.”
This application of technology is one, albeit potentially large, sector of sustainable development in Israel. If Israel were able to cut down on air pollution, especially in the major urban areas, perhaps this would lead to decreased pressures on the health services and economic resources could be diverted to other more vital areas rather than oil acquisition and refinement. However, what would this mean for increased reliance on the electricity sector to charge the batteries, where most of Israel’s electricity is produced by burning coal?