Electric Futures

The other week I was dropping a neighbours kid home from an after school programme. He asked me why my car wasn’t a flash new one.

I wanted to say that I’m trying to reduce the size of my carbon footprint and I’m hoping this is the last petrol powered car I will ever own – but that seemed like wishful thinking.

However this week there was a new video release from TED’09 of a bold new plan for electric cars. What is intriguing and significant is that the car industry themselves could miss this new direction (with some notable exceptions.)

Only yesterday I was reading about how Holden in Australia could be the first local car industry to go bust.

”Australia’s car plants are losing money faster than a drunk at a casino and there’s no feasible way of turning this around.

”The Australian car industry can re-focus on small cars, green cars, blue cars or red cars. None of this will make the slightest difference.”

Mr Clive Matthew-Wilson (NZ) believes the government money would have been better spent by giving it to the affected car workers

I wondered what would happen if AU car industry started putting electric motors into their cars but the view seems to be that globalisation of manufacturing costs just makes Australia non-competitive.

I’d still think that higher tech approach for electric cars is worth pursuing and maybe Renault and Holden should be talking?

In fact Australia is part of the Better Place electric car project already. The car 2.0 is avery bold plan for Australia that will make a difference. Obviously Clive missed all the news about Better Place in Australia.

Shai Agassi’s  plan offers a huge ray of hope for the future of modern civilisation and energy futures generally.

What I love about this story is that the innovation happens around the business model. That is: separating the batteries from the cars in terms of the overall cost model.

Shais thinking is bold and clear and his actions have prompted backing from governments who can see the future. Check Shai s background here. A very impressive career at SAP prior to his Better Place project.

New Zealand Transportation policy is firmly oriented towards supporting electric cars. To quote from some of that report.

5% market share (for electric cars) is way too conservative and NZ has an opportunity to do better. We have one of the cleanest electricity generation systems in the world.  We should be on the phone to Mr Agassi  ASAP.

“Major vehicle manufacturers (17) recently made a commitment to commercially develop electric cars, with reports suggesting that these may be available from as early as 2010. Our scenario assumes electric vehicle sales reach five per cent of market share in 2020, followed by a period of rapid growth that reaches a plateau of 60 per cent by 2040. ”

However the practicalities and other logistics of the cars have been difficult until this project.

“Shai Agassi wants to put you behind the wheel of an electric car — but he doesn’t want you to sacrifice convenience (or cash) to do it.
When horrific climate-change scenarios elicit little but endless chatter from governments and entrenched special interests, the difference between talk and action represent an embarrassing gulf. Meet Shai Agassi, who has stepped fearlessly into that gap. His approach to solving the puzzle of electric automobiles could spark nothing short of an automotive revolution.
Agassi stunned the software industry in 2007 by resigning from SAP to focus on his vision for breaking the world’s fossil-fuel habit, a cause he had championed since his fuse was lit at a Young Global Leaders conference in 2005. Through his enthusiastic persistence, Agassi’s startup Better Place has signed up some impressive partners — including Nissan-Renault and the countries of Israel and Denmark.

“Shai Agassi has only one car, no charging stations, and not a single customer—yet everyone who meets him already believes he can see the future.” – Wired”

Here is the best video you will see ever on the future of electric cars.

The NZ government should be rolling out the red carpet for Shai. More background on Shai’s plan.

So will we get electric cars anytime soon?

I’m much more hopeful than before. We need to look at energy futures much more seriously than we have been doing and Shai’s vision is a very good place to start.