Manufacturing Savvy

The Future is Here Battery-Exchange Service Stations Arrive

It's amazing how the vision of one individual can materialize as a concrete solution to global economic problems. Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place, has contracts in place to build prototype battery-changing stations for electric cars in Israel, Denmark, Japan and Canada. He also has agreements with Hawaii and with a nine-city alliance of communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first 50 stations will be built in Israel and will open in 2012.

In a recent New York Times article, Agassi explained that in order to convince consumers to purchase all-electric cars, they have to be able to recharge their cars. Much like we go to gas stations to get oil, we will go to battery- exchange stations to replace the batteries for our electric cars. And under Agassi's vision we won't even have to own the batteries but we can lease them as we do cell phone minutes. And if all of that convenience isn't enough good news, how about the fact that Agassi estimates that the cost in kilowatt hours to drive 100 miles in an electric car is less than half the current price of gas.

Who is this visionary? Born in Israel, he and his father started several software companies, the last of which they sold to SAP in 2001. Agassi, 40, was the chief technology officer at SAP before leaving two years ago to create Better Place in Palo Alto, Calif., with $200 million from venture capitalists in Israel and the United States.

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