(Pranksters in Jerusalem paint a smiley face on a traffic light)
TreeHugger has partnered with The Huffington Post to help color their new Green channel with content. What have we been talking about? Well Jeremy has recently posted on Sen. John McCain’s Contorted Position on the Environment and Michael discusses the feasibility of Water-Powered Cars.
Not long ago this TreeHugger thought she’d add a voice of reason to Israel’s electric car hype (of Project Better Place) on HuffPo in a post titled Green Smoke and Mirrors. It’s been interesting how the public has reacted to our post. On Autoblog Green they called Huffington Post writers latte slurping, Prius collecting liberals. Hey wait a second – we drink instant or Turkish coffee and don’t own a car. Many (those with stakes in the company probably) didn’t like the problems we had with Shai Agassi’s electric car project. Here are a few of them:
The Way of the Sony Betamax
Agassi's electric car is not a hybrid car, but fueled solely by an electric battery. Like the Beta machine, that could only play Beta movies or Kodak's Advantix camera that takes only Advantix film, we can see where this could go. Agassi's car batteries will work only in Agassi cars. How quickly will this technology become obsolete?
In order for Agassi's electric cars to refuel, new battery-replacement stations equipped to automatically transfer and replace the battery must be in place and be as ubiquitous as gas stations are today -- a problem in a small country like Israel with no room to lay new infrastructure.
Agassi's electric car could potentially be so affordable that every person will want one. Unlike in America, it is more common for Israeli households to be either a one or a zero car household. It should stay like this. Bumper to bumper everywhere and fatal traffic accidents happening daily, this tiny country needs more cars like a hole in the head.
Electric cars in Israel won't be green cars, at least not for the next 20 years. Israel derives 70 percent of its power from burning coal, very polluting for air quality and very bad for greenhouse gas emissions. Israel is at this moment planning for a new coal plant.
(News of a new solar thermal plant in Israel however - Solar Thermal Test Center by BrightSource Energy in Israel – raises some hopes of a potentially cleaner future.)
Electric cars - what about pedal power?
Yael Cohen Paran, director of Israel's Energy Forum in an op-ed on ISRAEL21c writes: Two million electric cars flooding the streets and highways of Israel using not even a single drop of gasoline? This prospect of an oil-free and seemingly green future has recently excited many journalists and Israeli politicians. First raised by a young Israeli high-tech entrepreneur, Shay Agassi, the concept was immediately embraced by the Israeli Government and President Shimon Peres.
However, as the smoke surrounding the idea clears, it becomes apparent that Israel's great potential as an innovator for a greener future should follow a more sustainable path...A cleaner solution for electricity production is urgently needed, and maybe this should be resolved first, before converting all the cars into electric ones, she writes.
Today we took the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem –– two major cities normally only a 40 minute car ride away. With a train running only every 2 hours this afternoon, and a one-and-a-half hour ride back to Jerusalem, who dares take the train these days? Unless you have a laptop and can work while you are traveling. Or have loads of time for day-dreaming.
True, a new train connecting the cities is in the works, but with setbacks rampant in these parts it is likely to take another few years before it’s in operation.
We fear that all the big business with electric cars in Israel and elsewhere is just a Band-Aid for the bigger problem: we have to change our lifestyle or the earth won’t sustain us. Get on the bus guys; buy a bike and lobby your governments for efficient and effective public transportation, and the support of technologies that will make clean energy within reach in our lifetime.