Friday, August 22, 2008

Pipe Dreams

Electric cars can free us from our addiction to oil. That has been the dream for 100 years. Shai Agassi thinks we can achieve this dream. He has a new approach. It's not a new technology, but a new business model.

He imagines an "automotive ecosystem" functioning much like the mobile phone industry. We would get our electric cars through an operator at a steep discount (or even free), and then subscribe to service plans -- unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go, etc. The profit would come from selling the electricity much like the mobile phone companies sell minutes.

One of the biggest inconveniences of electric cars is recharging the battery when you don't have time to recharge. Agassi has the solution for that problem too. Drivers would go to battery exchange stations where one battery would be pulled out and a fully charged one would be put in, and then off you go!

Agassi has launched Project Better Place with the goal of building an electric car network, and I think his ideas make a lot of sense. But I do wonder how or even if this system can emerge in a big oil-addicted country like the U.S.

Consumers will have to switch to electric cars, automakers will have to build them, the network must be completed, and somewhere there has to exist the political will. I have no hope of that ever coming from Washington, but I will be one proud Californian if the clean-tech revolution starts here.

1 comment:

DerekO said...

These are great ideas.