In 2009 Shai Agassi made a splash at TED with his plans for electic cars. Agassi’s innovative idea was to make the batteries swappable; swappable batteries and swap-station infrastructure mean that electric cars are as mobile as gas. Even more importantly, it makes possible a pure electric car which is much cheaper to make than a hybrid. The news out of Israel is that Agassi’s company BetterPlace is within months of rolling this out in Israel and in Denmark just months after that. Indeed, you can see charge stations like this around Jerusalem.
In addition, some gas stations are geared up to be swap stations. A swap is entirely automatic and takes 3 minutes, less than the time to fill up. Without swapping you can travel 100 miles, so for most people on most days they won’t even need a swap since they will charge at home and and at work.
I am told that there are already 90,000 pre-orders for the vehicles, a huge number for Israel. Are Israeli’s super-green? No, the big selling point is that the cars are not expensive to buy and, of course, cheap to run.
Here is the battery swap in action:
I learned some of this talking with a betterplace executive so take it with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, I expect this will be big news a few months from now.