Monday, November 12, 2007

Project Better Place

A great name for a potentially great project. This is a FOR-PROFIT corporation that is dedicated to making EVs (cars powered by electricity) a wide-spread, viable transportation solution. I feel like if I paraphrase more, I'm just going to ruin it so I'll let them speak for themselves.

Today, the world depends on oil as its fundamental transportation energy source. With the rapid rise in oil prices, a number of alternatives to oil have been proposed in recent years with little success. Project Better Place will focus on the integration of existing technologies and systems to provide the infrastructure and scale necessary to make electric cars a viable alternative to fuel-based vehicles. By doing so, Project Better Place will overcome low adoption rates to-date due to the lack of an established and ubiquitous charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles.

The timing of the launch of Project Better Place is based on two trends—the upward trend in the price of oil, and the downward trend in the price of cutting edge batteries. For the first time, the per mile energy cost for an electric vehicle has fallen below that of an internal combustion engine-powered vehicle. Within a decade, the cost of energy production and storage for the lifetime of an electric vehicle will fall below the fuel costs for a single year of a traditional automobile.

I'll say, first-off, that having solid ground to base your business on is a good start. I'm not a business expert but that part makes sense. Green companies frequently depend upon the altruism of consumers which simply does not exist in the quantities that would make a sound business plan. You can't ask someone to pay twice as much or settle for an inferior product simply based on how environmental it is. You'll get people like me and the other < 1% but everyone else will want the better performer, regardless of how guilty they feel. When you say "gas cars will cost more, EVs will be cheap," you have a draw for the majority of people. The EV might be a bit smaller and less horsepower but it costs you 1/4 of what your car does AND it's green. THAT'S where you start to get converts.

So, how to do it? Here comes the really neat part:
The business model for the electric cars will be similar to that used by mobile phone operators. In the same way that wireless operators deploy a network of cell towers to provide an area of mobile phone coverage, Project Better Place will establish a network of charging spots and battery exchange stations to provide ubiquitous access to electricity to power electric vehicles. The company will partner with car makers and source batteries so that consumers who subscribe to the network can get subsidized vehicles which are cheaper to buy and operate than today’s fuel-based cars. Consumers will still own their cars and will have multiple car models to choose from.

Similar to cellular phone companies, Project Better Place will offer consumers several subscription-based ownership models. Through these subscription models, vehicle owners will be linked into a nationwide network of charge spots and exchange stations. When a consumer parks his or her car, the network synchronizes the car with the smart electric grid to recharge the battery. When a driver travels long-distance, he or she can swap batteries at an exchange station to get a fully charged battery, similar to how we now stop to fill our gas tanks today.

To match multiple customer segments, Project Better Place will offer several car models and subscription pricing packages that will reduce total cost of ownership and subsidize the car as part of this package.

I like the way this sounds! Hopefully they will also be able to address existing cars. I would think that there are a lot more people out there who would rather convert their current car to EV rather than buying a new one. Keep in mind, this also saves manufacturing energy and pollution as well as raw materials. Gotta look at the BIG PICTURE, right?

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