Shai Agassi is a Silicon Valley technologist with a great idea.
Agassi believes in the future of electric cars, but he doesn’t want to build a company to produce them; he wants to create an intrastructure of electric-charging stations in the US and around the world.
The innovative part of his plan is that he isn’t so much interested in battery technology. In other words, people don’t have giant gas tanks in their cars now, nor do they have fuel storage tanks at their homes. They buy gas, on the road, when they need it. So why bend yourself out of shape trying to develop a battery with a long range of travel?
He’a already raised $200 million and expects to roll out the plan in 2008.
“If you listen to the car companies, they suggest there is a fix, but it’s not there yet,” said Stephen J. Girsky, a partner at the investment firm Centerbridge Partners who formerly served as an adviser to General Motors.
However, the new venture, which Mr. Agassi has named, for now, Better Place, would be viable even with existing lithium-ion battery technology, he said.
The economics will be more compelling in Europe, where gasoline is roughly twice as expensive as in the United States, he said. Assuming a life span of 1,500 battery recharges, he said that the energy cost of all-electric cars would be about 7 cents a mile. That would be less than a third of the cost of driving a gasoline-powered car today.
“It’s much easier to transport electrons than octane molecules,” he said. “We’ve already got a grid that goes around the entire world; all we have to do is extend it.”
The sooner we’re independent of foreign oil, the sooner the Middle East ceases to matter to us, one way or the other.