Published on June 16th, 2009 | by Ruedigar Matthes
The Tipping Point: China Takes Major Steps Toward Electric Vehicles
With over 1.3 billion people, it is no wonder that China is the “tipping point” when it comes to electric vehicles (EV). At least that’s what Better Place CEO Shai Agassi says.
Better Place, a venture-backed company that aims to reduce global dependency on oil, doesn’t sell cars but infrastructure. The company recently unveiled a battery swap system in Tokyo that makes refueling an EV easier than filling up at the pump. The $500,000 station allows drivers to travel long distances without having to stop to charge their battery, eliminating EV’s ever present “range anxiety.” Batteries are quickly and easily swapped out so drivers can get back on the road.
But infrastructure is just part of the picture, and Agassi says that China is taking steps toward green-lighting electric cars in a big way. “Once China does it, you don’t have a choice,” Agassi said.
China’s BYD Auto has recently struck a deal with Volkswagon to develop EV batteries, and Hafei Auto is working on an electric car that California’s sprouting Coda Automotive promises to put on the road by 2010. If China throws its full weight behind electric car manufacturing, then the global picture changes dramatically.
“We’ve done the crazy thing of raising a ton of capital to put the network in place before the product exists,” said Agassi. Better Place wants to help countries overcome their dependency on oil by helping them keep a step ahead of the market.
Better Place provides countries with a framework to replace gas stations with battery charging stations that draw from sustainable energy sources as well.
Developing this kind of network will get people into electric cars faster than focusing on specific pieces like cars or batteries. By creating infrastructure which make refueling EVs convenient, Better Place hopes to bring the saying that “if you build it, they will come” to fruition.
“Our goal is not to build a car company,” Agassi says. “Our goal is to end oil.” The existing auto-makers must step into the future of auto making, being the source of future EVs. Let other companies work on refueling them.
Better Place is currently working with the Danish government to create wind-powered battery changing stations as well as the Israeli government to create a solar grid. Israel is owner of an ambitious goal to be free from oil by 2020.
But China is the kicker. The field is set and the light is green for China and the world. With the progress of other countries, the EV world’s eyes turn to the world’s most populated country. And China isn’t disappointing, according to Agassi.
Image Credit: Proggie via flickr under Creative Commons License