A Reader Responds to Project Better Place Getting Wired

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again –– Israel’s electric car scheme Project Better Place –– needs some serious rethinking. Shai Agassi, who founded the company (pictured above), proposes new infrastructure for the swappable batteries, leased and paid for much in the same way as the cellular phone industry: you pay for use and not the device. Israel and Denmark are buying.

In August Wired magazine featured Agassi on the cover (you can it read here). The story extols the virtues of the new paradigm in electric cars that Agassi is offering. I’ve blogged my reservations about Project Better Place here on TreeHugger before and also on The Huffington Post; most recently on my own blog Green Prophet. It’s happened a few times, where I’ve received some sort of email from a PR company representing Project Better Place, or an investor in the company, who says that I don’t have all the facts. I’ve offered they do a guest post on TreeHugger to set the record straight. No takers.
Today, after posting a few pictures from the Wired story, and a few thoughts, a reader Kerry Bradshaw added their criticism on Project Better place. The comment gives us some food for thought. I’ve published it below, as well as an illustration of how Project Better Place’s scheme will work. Your thoughts and opinions, as always, most welcome.

Comment from "Kerry Bradshaw":

Shai Agassi has managed to convince the controlling politicians of several rather energy-desperate countries (Israel and Denmark)
 of the merits of his battery swapping scheme (an old idea not original with Agassi) as the best way to avoid petroleum dependencies. There are
 severe problems with his arguments:

1) His system won’t come anywhere close to
 removing petroleum dependencies - fully 1/3rd 
is used for commercial trucking, boats, etc, 
which won’t be covered by his system, nor
 will any of the petroleum used to make heating oil,
 lubricants, etc. This will be true irregardless of which private transportation technology is adopted.

2) His tiny vehicles will not satisfy the needs
of the driving public.

3) The swapping frequency while on a trip (about every
 80 minutes) is needlessly inconvenient.

4) Each highway traveler on a trip in his system requires many 
battery packs in reserve every day to meet his mileage
 requirements. This greatly increases the number of battery
 packs the system and its overall costs. Batteries are one of 
the main reasons electric cars are not practical, and his
 system makes that deficiency even worse.
 The battery packs must also be located in just the right
 spots.

4) Agassi’s economic arguments are only directed at gas powered
 vehicles, which are NOT the main competitors his system 
must face: 
Plug-in hybrids are his main competitors, like the 40 mile
 electric ranged Volt, which can accomplish every bit as
 much as his much more expensive (trillions for infrastructure),
 inconvenient system of tiny vehicles.

For one thing, we can electrify a lot more vehicle types
 as plug-ins (e.g. large pickup trucks, vans, etc.) than we 
could using swappable battery power drive trains, which are
 severely limited in their power outputs.
 And we can easily demonstrate, using DOT commuter trip
 statistics, that a 40 mile range plug-in fleet can avoid 94 percent of current commuter gasoline requirements (97 percent if 1/4 of the
 workers can recharge at their workplace), and probably more
 than 93 percent overall.

Project Better Place model car

That range will likely be 50 miles in the near
 future, which would avoid 96 percent and 98 percent respectively.
 Regardless, it’s clear that any liquid fuel
 requirements of a plug-in fleet can be met entirely by ethanol. 
Since ethanol is more carbon neutral that typical electrical
 power, Agassi’s scheme is inferior in carbon emissions, although,
 quite frankly, any differences between the two systems is 
insignificant and unimportant –– both will achieve far more than 
is required.

Agassi has simply not produced a viable, or even defensible
 technology for the electrification of the fleet. The idea of swappable batteries is old and just as harebrained now as it was when it was first suggested decades ago....And when 
batteries become quickly rechargeable, Agassi’s entire trillion
 dollar system becomes instantly obsolete, whereas the current system we have would simply find gas stations swapping out gas pumps for charging posts as the demand irrevocably shifts from gasoline to 
electricity.

And since a very large portion of the electricity
 used to fill those batteries will come from household outlets,
 a great many of the gas stations today will disappear, making
 the transportation fueling system even more efficient.

Illustration of fueling stations

::Green Prophet via ::Jewlicious via ::Wired
More on Project Better place
Green Smoke and Mirrors
Israel Says Shalom To Project Better Place
2010: The Year We Make Electric Contact
Making Electric Cars to Sell Like Cell Phones
Make It Electric, Because Israel Needs More Cars Like a Hole in the Head

Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles | Israel | Transportation | United States