Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Clean Energy Newsmakers: Carlos Ghosn, electric vehicles, Better Place

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.


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Project Better Place in Hawaii; Carbon Is “Forever”

Better Place has agreed to build as many as 100,000 charging stations in Hawaii by 2012 in an effort to expand the market for electric vehicles.  Hawaii joins Israel, Denmark, Australia and several Northern California locations in signing on with Better Place, which I wrote about here.  The infrastructure in Israel is supposed to start being put in place in 2009.  Larger deployments are scheduled for 2011.  Electric vehicles will help wind and solar projects come online as their potential for mobile energy storage becomes clear.  Seeing as how most vehicles in Hawaii are only driven 10-20 miles per day, electric vehicles make a lot of sense.

[Update 11Dec08]: Talk-show host Ed Schultz had San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom on in the 2nd hour of his show today.  Newsom spoke with Ed for a minute about the Bay Area’s plans to build an integrated charging system.  He mentioned that sStandardization projects will start next early year, with an eye toward 2010, when car companies will have electric cars available for consumers.  It was brief, but any exposure to Better Place is a good thing at this point, especially with the troubles U.S. automakers are having.

How long will the CO2 introduced by humans last in our climate system?  The mean lifetime was found to be 30,000 – 35,000 years.  CO2 is eventually scrubbed by geologic processes.  Those processes are extremely slow, meaning everything we pump into the atmosphere could last as long as 400,000 years.  That’s pretty much forever, as far as humans are concerned.  The warming caused by that CO2 is also likely to last for tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.  But by all means, believe the salesmen about “clean” coal and oil shale.


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Better Place – Introduction

WIRED’s big article in its August issue was about a major effort to make the electric car’s future more robust.  Shai Agassi has launched Project Better Place, a company that is working with governments, car companies and energy companies to birth a system that will support millions of electric vehicles.  Not hybrids: fully electric vehicles.  How does he propose to do this?  By treating car batteries of the future more like the gasoline of today.  In addition to being able to charge a car battery at home, Agassi’s plan is to have battery charging stations as part of a country’s infrastructure.  Okay you say, there’s nothing new about that.  And you’re correct.  So how about this – the plan includes battery replacement centers.  Instead of waiting to charge a battery, you could drive up and have it automatically replaced.  Additionally, Agassi wants recharging stations where people work and shop.  How would the electricity be paid for?  More flexibly than gasoline: it would work more like cell phone plans, actually.  Unlimited electricity, pay as you go, and the like.

Agassi has come up with a fairly robust business plan to date.  He has agreements to develop infrastructure worked out with Israel, Denmark, Australia, and most recently, California’s Bay Area.  He also has agreements worked out with Nissan and Renault to produce the electric vehicles.  Isn’t that interesting: GM, Ford and Chrysler don’t seem to be interested in electric vehicles on a mass scale.  But they sure want sub-market loans from the government, don’t they?

Agassi has developed some financing from the following: VantagePoint Venture Partners, Israel Corporation, Israel Cleantech Ventures, Morgan Stanley, Acorns to Oaks II, Esarbee Investments Canada, GC Investments LLC, Musea Ventures, Ofer Group, Vyikra Partners, Wolfensohn & Co. and Maniv Energy Capital.  Project Better Place has raised over $200 million so far, with the potential for another $1 billion or more in the relatively near future.

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