Shai Agassi's Electric Dreams  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

SBS's Dateline program has a segment on Better Place's electric vehicle plans - Electric Dreams. See the video here.

REPORTER: Where are we now?

SHAI AGASSI: We're at the Better Place centre in Tel Aviv.

REPORTER: And what happens here?

SHAI AGASSI: This is where people actually come to experience driving. You can actually see these guys - they're walking in right now.

TOUR GUIDE: Better Place centre is the first centre in the whole world that presents a complete solution for electric transportation.

The visitor's centre is built on the site of an old oil depot, and the irony is intentional.

TOUR GUIDE: In a symbolic way today we spread a new concept to the world coming straight from here.

Over 75,000 people have toured the facilities since it opened a year ago. They've all come to see Shai's solution to what's been the electric car's biggest problem.

REPORTER: What about the range anxiety people have, of worrying that the battery might go flat?

SHAI AGASSI: Well, I think if you have a fixed battery electric car, you should be worried. You're tethered to your home.

REPORTER: So this is a car which comes with a battery.

SHAI AGASSI: We actually address that with a switchable battery electric car.

It might not look like much but this is the heart of Agassi's solution.

SHAI AGASSI: We brought in a disruptive thought that you're not bound to your battery, you're not bound to the range of that battery. You can exchange the battery and keep going.

TOUR GUIDE: With your card you will be recognised with your car. It will take you to the spot where the battery will be switched and your car will be washed.

Instead of spending hours recharging, customers will drive into a switch station and swap the depleted battery for a fully-charged one.

TOUR GUIDE: We use this switch station if you go a long distance - If you want to go very far.

It takes less time than it takes to refuel a petrol car thanks to a mechanism adapted from the one that holds the bombs in place on F-16 jets. By the end of the year they hope to have over 40 switch stations across the country.

SHAI AGASSI: The switchable battery electric car allows you to use all the batteries that are on the road. Any location you are in has a GPS which tells you how far you are from your next location and from the next switch station, it gets away from the anxiety, you actually, you're always aware of where you are and whether you'll make it to the next stop. It becomes almost second nature not to think about it.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show two years ago, Renault agreed to mass-produce an electric vehicle with a switchable battery. They committed to making 100,000 cars named the Fluence- ZE.

SHAI AGASSI: It's the first mega-deal for electric cars in history. There has not been a car since the Ford Model T that has been sold at 100,000 volume, driving on anything other than gasoline. If you'll look back at history, today was the beginning of the electric era and potentially the end of the oil era.

Sometimes people have to remind you to aim high. Most of us are afraid of aiming high for fear of failure and our biggest failure is that we aim too low.

He's certainly aiming high with plans to open his networks of Charge Spots and Switching Stations across the globe. The roll-out has already begun in Denmark, Hawaii, Japan, and Canada and will soon becoming to Australia.

SHAI AGASSI: This is the Network Operating Centre. This is the hub, the backbone if you want of running a network around a country. Somebody needs to manage that the current is coming in, nobody ran over a spot, there are no emergencies, and so you need to run it as a utility. That's what we've built here.

REPORTER: But this is very small!

SHAI AGASSI: You know, from this centre we can actually manage any network in any country. Guys, can you put a map on the screen, Israel, Denmark, any of the countries that are running?

Thanks to Shai's computing background, the system will be able to balance the demand across the power grid as well as micro-manage its customer's needs.

SHAI AGASSI: When you come in it knows that you're a certain distance from home, how much battery do you need, what time it is based on that, are you at work, what's the probability you'll need to drive it in the next few hours, all that information is used by the computer inside the car to give us a priority rating on your need for charge right now.

TOUR GUIDE: To get to 100% battery capacity we need to charge for 1hour and 42 minutes.

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