How Israel Will Become Oil-Free Through an Electric Car Grid

At the 2005 World Economic Forum, Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi was posed with the prompting question: What will you do to make the world a better place by 2020? While many surely disregarded this, Agassi took the challenge to heart, and sought to pursue an answer, not only in theory, but in practice, as well. This challenge served as the catalyst for what would ultimately be Agassi’s company, Better Place, which now stands at the forefront of electric transportation.

Upon hearing the term “Electric Car,” one cannot help but conjure up images of the Jetsons, immediately dismissing the concept as one far removed from any conceivable reality. Even those who dare toy with the notion would certainly stop short of actually investing in it. While it is true that plenty of individuals have opted to purchase hybrid cars in the interest of a more eco-friendly option, a fully electric car has not yet married technology with commercial viability. However, it is precisely this concept that Agassi sought as the basis of his pursuit.

What makes Better Place unique is the revolutionary approach by which it is modeled. Rather than simply offering individuals the option of a more “green” automobile, Better Place proposes a network infrastructure to be applied to entire societies, in order to generate mass sustainability. This infrastructure involves a network of charging stations as well as battery swapping stations, to ensure that drivers are not limited in any way. Thus, Better Place vehicles offer drivers an affordable, practical way to maximize their driving experience while minimizing their environmental impact. 

In order to actualize his vision, Agassi teamed up with car manufacturers and energy companies, many of whom were captivated by the young entrepreneur’s revolutionary concept. However, the biggest hurdle facing the vision seemed to be where it could be implemented: what society would be willing to invest in such a futuristic, radical idea? In his quest to find governmental leaders willing to take the leap of faith, Agassi finally found allies in Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Signing onto the partnership in 2008, Israel became the first nation in the world to commit to the implementation of an all-electric car infrastructure.

So, why Israel? While Israel may seem like an odd choice for the implantation of such a radical innovation, it is actually the ideal society in which to test the Better Place model. Because of the state’s small size and large usage of solar power, Israel offers the perfect microcosm for Agassi’s vision. And with a track record of ongoing efforts towards sustainability, and a global leader in innovation, it is not surprising that the small state of Israel was so willing to invest.

To mark the four-year anniversary of the partnership, this past January, Better Place delivered the first tens of cars to Israeli employees, a major milestone in the company’s development. Since the partnership began, Better Place has been making great strides in the adaptation of electric transportation, and projects that by 2020, Israel will achieve full oil independence. 

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Leah Karchmer

Second year student at DePaul University in Chicago. Honors student double majoring in Peace, Justice, Conflict Studies and Religious Ethics & Social Justice. President of the DePaul Israel Advocates, contributor to the DePaulia (university newspaper) former Hasbara Fellow and current Emerson Fellow with StandWithUs. Interests include Israel, Middle Eastern affairs, politics, multiculturalism and religion.

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