A working alliance with General Electric and $350 million raised lends substance to the upstart Better Place, hoping to catapult fully electric vehicles with long ranges into the automotive marketplace. Future work to help consumers negotiate utilities access to battery power when not driving would help Better Place and the U.S.’s antiquated grid design.
Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn understands the risks that future oil prices and climate change will have on transportation and responds by pushing electric vehicles. He’s a visionary that has feet solidly on the ground.
As 2010 auto shows move around the country, the hottest vehicles are the cleanest vehicles: hybrids and electrics are garnering plenty of attention and praise. They are only beginning their path into the U.S. auto market, but will soon dominate it, I think.
One thing Republicans aren’t prepared to handle: business leaders asking Congress for prompt, decisive climate action. More and more leaders are realizing how serious climate change is and want to get in front of it, not be run over by it. Aspen Skiing Co. was one of 83 U.S. corporate leaders who say the U.S. is “falling behind” on clean-energy development. Is it too little, too late, though?
I’ve followed the story of Better Place for a while now. Here’s a strong video about investors on electric vehicles and opportunities opening up for Better Place around the world. Better Place CEO Shai Agassi was on CNBC recently discussing what they’ve achieved in a short period of time. Later this year, Israel is scheduled to become the first place where widespread implementation of the Better Place business model takes form. Other locations will follow.
There’s some good news for a country that is being much more proactive about energy use and climate change than the U.S. A nationwide electric car recharging network is going to be built in France. An energy utility and a car maker are leading the way on the project, set to debut in just two short years.
The project will receive €400m of state backing over the next four years, which has been personally guaranteed by President Sarkozy.
To be worked out is who will be responsible for the charging station infrastructure, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The early front-runner is California-based Project Better Place, which has confirmed it is in talks about the project. The company is already building electric car recharging networks in Denmark and Israel, based on a model that sees cars quickly swap empty batteries for fully charged ones at roadside stations.
I’ve been a fan of Better Place ever since I heard about them, about a year ago now. I checked their plans out, which seem relatively well-developed for a new company. They have been very aggressive about putting themselves at the fore of the electric car wave that is slowly (for now) building momentum. The article actually skips over a number of cities that are also in contact with Better Place – including a couple in the U.S. that are planning on building out electric car charging stations. It’s just unfortunate that it’s only a small handful of mayors and governors in America that recognize what the dominant form of transportation will soon be. It makes sense that a national approach, such as Israel’s, Denmark’s and now France’s, should be pursued.
Interestingly, after fighting higher mileage standards quite vociferously for years in the U.S., Chrysler is among the competitors trying to get a foothold in the France electric car market. But they can’t build their U.S. fleet to meet higher efficiency standards, they told Congress. Nobody would buy the cars. Uh-huh. Their European fleet meets Europe’s standards, which are much more aggressive than the U.S.’. After stupidly fighting a U.S. mandate, I wasn’t sorry to see their survival in question last year into this year. They’ve done what they could to destroy the U.S. middle class. They found out how untenable that approach was. Hey, Chrysler, how about doing some fighting for this technology state-side?
Check out Better Place‘s ongoing marketing approach.
I heard quite a bit about the Chevy Volt in all forms of media yesterday. The more I heard, the more I realized that commentators and pundits that I consider trustworthy were, in this case, doing a lot of heavy lifting for Chevy in the form of free marketing. I think the Volt will be a good vehicle and an interesting case in how the automotive sector might be shifting. That said, there were a number of claims that I thought needed to be cleaned up.
Let’s start with this NYT article. In the lede: GM puts Volt’s Mileage in triple digits. Well, that’s nice. GM also told Americans two years ago that the truck and SUV markets in the U.S. would keep them on top of the automotive world. How did that turn out exactly? What is the official source of mpg ratings? The E.P.A. – and they haven’t assessed the Volt’s performance yet, mostly because the methodology to do so remains in draft form. But GM is doing what GM should be doing: trying their hardest to build up expectations for the vehicle.
What are those expectations? 230 mpg in city driving. Wowsa! Doesn’t that sound awesome? Actually, it should be 230mpg* in city driving – and that asterisk should be pretty darned big! Drivers might get 230mpg if they drive less than 40 miles from charging station to charging station in laboratory-like conditions: no hills, no A/C or heat, etc.! More likely, drivers in every-day conditions could see ~100mpg performance. Now, that’s nothing to sneeze at. I think it’s a very good half-step forward. But here’s the thing: there are 100mpg cars available today. Modify a factory car today with $10K or so, and 100mpg is already well within reach. So where is the dramatic technological leap forward?
Nissan has countered that it’s upcoming hybrid, the Leaf, could get up to 367mpg. The same limitations I described for the Volt apply here, also. Nissan is also working with Better Place to manufacture and deploy all-electric vehicles, which wouldn’t need any gas whatsoever to drive! Now that’s what I call progress!