Hawaii is on track to become the first state in the country to have statewide electric car stations. Currently, Hawaii imports foreign oil for almost 90 percent of its energy needs. One-third of that oil is used to power cars and buses on island streets. Hawaii could save more than $2 billion dollars a year just by cutting out oil imports for those cars and buses.
Better Place, a California based company, will build a network of recharging stations and provide recharged batteries for electric cars in the state. The company plans to have the main stations up and running by 2011, and expects to build between 50,000 to 100,000 “charge spots” (plug-in locations for electric cars in parking lots or residential neighborhoods) throughout the state by early 2012. Better Place’s CEO, Shai Agassi, is hoping the new infrastructure will make EVs a viable alternative. But to make this plan a reality, Agassi will need lots of money, and even more political support.
The basic premise revolves around the network of charging spots. Drivers will be able to plug in anytime, in any of the locations, and pay for it via a subscription plan, like you’d pay for your cell phone. If customers don’t have enough time to charge up, they can go to one of the battery stations and swap their drained battery out for a fresh one.
Hawaii seems to be the perfect place for a trial run of this technology. It’s isolated, with few vehicles coming in and out, and most cars only drive a few dozen miles a day. Most importantly, it’s electric grid could easily handle the load. Every car in Hawaii on the grid would only represent 6 to 8 percent of the state’s capacity. It sounds great, but it’s yet to be proven in the real world.
Shai Agassi founded his company a little over a year ago, and it’s already on it’s way to building major infrastructure projects in several countries. The media loves him, WIRED even had a cover story on him a few months ago, and he’s convinced a whole slew of policymakers to get on board. He has deals with Israel, Denmark, Australia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and now Hawaii. The thing is, the premise hasn’t yet been proven in the market. Will the batteries work? How long will they last? Will people buy electric cars? Will companies make electric cars? Will it all end up being cost effective? Or is Shai Agassi a modern day Music Man? We’ll see.
(via The NYT)
A Better Place video: