Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Green Issue - Batteries Not Included -

Highlights from The New York Times piece on swapping batteries stations for electric cars. It's one solution to the problem of recharging electric car batteries, which can take long time. This could really work.
  • tags:, green

    • Agassi never regarded himself as a particularly ardent environmentalist. But in 2005, he attended a meeting of young global leaders at the World Economic Forum at Davos where they discussed the question “How would you make the world a better place?”
    • After giving it some thought himself, he ultimately decided the answer was: By ending the world’s addiction to oil, which would mean finally getting people to drive electric cars. Hybrids, he argued, were a half-measure. Alternative fuels like hydrogen or natural gas or bio­fuels weren’t going to be readily available anytime soon. Only electricity fit the bill. It is plentiful, already widely distributed and can be generated from extremely low- or zero-emissions sources like solar or wind farms.
    • As he crunched the numbers, what really struck Agassi was how lucrative a business like this could be.
    • Powering a car by electricity — even relatively expensive “clean” energy like wind or solar — costs far less than powering it by gasoline.
    • The Tesla all-electric sedan, for example, uses about 1 cent of electricity per mile. A comparable gasoline car uses 16 cents of gasoline per mile.
    • And with the United States market for automobile gas at roughly $275 billion, Agassi figured that a company controlling a world network of charging stations would become so profitable so quickly that it could subsidize its customers’ electric cars, much the way mobile companies give out free phones to people who sign two-year contracts.
    • Within months, he had acquired crucial political and financial backing for Better Place. Peres’s support helped; the president wanted Israel to be the company’s first test market, and Peres began working as an icebreaker inside the government, getting skeptical politicians to begin designing tax incentives and cheap debt to finance the firm.
    • Then one day, he and an automotive engineer were chewing over an impractical method for quickly replenishing batteries. The engineer wondered aloud: Wouldn’t the fastest way to charge an electric car be to simply replace the battery?
    • It was, Agassi says, his “aha” moment. The auto industry’s conceptual error, he says, is in regarding the battery as a built-in component of the car, like a gas tank. Instead, you could think of the battery as more analogous to gas itself — an entity that goes in and out of a car as needed, owned not by the driver but by the company that sells you the fuel.
    • Think of the problem that way, Agassi realized, and the recharging company could refill its customers’ cars using battery technology and the existing electric grid without making any radical new technological innovations. The solution to electric cars lay not in re-engineering the battery but in re-engineering the car.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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