Kiki & Lala

Shai Agassi

Posted on: May 20, 2009


Meet Shai Agassi, my new crush (don’t tell Little Twinboy).  And after I tell you about this brilliant man and his audacious plan, he will probably be yours too (I won’t tell Little Twinhub).  So who is this guy? Where is he from? What does he do? And is he married? I kid. I kid. 

Shai Agassi is the founder of  Better Place.  After sifting through a few possibly good ideas, he came up with one brilliant plan and ran with it.  He is proposing electric vehicles to replace our gasoline guzzling cars.   And he’s not just talking about the ones out today that accelerate like bump cars, that take forever to recharge or that cost a fortune to build.  He is talking about electric cars that will be built by current car manufacturers, accelerate just like our gasoline fueled cars and cost just as much.  How, you ask? This is where his genius comes.  Check out this video.

Better Place will create the infrastructure to make this idea possible by providing the recharging and battery switching stations.  They partnered with Renault-Nissan to build these vehicles and reached out to various governments to implement this program.  

Israel (where Shai Agassi is from) will be the first country to distribute these kinds of cars.  


Denmark, Australia and Canada have come onboard. 


In Asia, Japan (as always) is an early adaptor.  Below is a battery switching station model.  This was taken in some auto show in Yokohama.


Imagine the concept of a car wash.

Imagine the concept of a car wash.

I don’t know why but this idea just blew my mind away.  I’m just so fascinated by the fact that this all started with one man and his resolve to make our world a better place to live in.   

Photo credits:


10 Responses to "Shai Agassi"

So what time frame are we looking at?
How long before this gets HERE? It just sounds too good to be true!
I hope our legislators don’t slap a monster tax on cars like that.
Hybrids cost twice here what they do in the States because of the tax!!
So much for the Senate supporting the environment.
Well, researched Kiki!

there’s already a local company that makes electric jeeps and tricycles… we were even featured on discovery channel! featured it on twinpopsis 🙂

but the recharging stations that takes a few seconds is the genius idea of shai. recharging has always been a key issue of these electrics — and if the technology he discovered is affordable, then shai’y incredible (corny).

We are one of Shai’s corpoate sponsors (I agree subsidize charge spots at work and at employee homes). One of the keys is that they own the battery (and all the hassels, upgrades, etc) and only charge minutes. The way to help is to push for a standardized battery, the car companies still want to have a different design and sell the battery to the user not the infrastructure.

LALA: First of all, we have an outside commenter who is NOT twinpopsis. Welcome Pat!

All this should be rolled out in the countries mentioned above by 2010. If you go to the website of Better Place, you’ll see their progress. Pretty impressive considering that the project is of Ben-Hur magnitude. If you ask me, the length of time before it gets to the Philippines will depend on the politics. We need laws to support this program. Before Better Place can even export their infrastructure to us, the laws and policies will have to be in place. I watched somewhere that many countries have approached Israel asking if they can replicate the legislation to apply in their respective countries.

I’m glad you mentioned taxes. Did you know that Israel taxes conventional gas consuming cars 85% ??? Yes 85%! To promote these electric vehicles, for the first several years (I forget how many) they will only tax early adapters 10%. After x number of years, the tax gradually increases. Now tell me, why shouldn’t you buy the electric vehicle? If you are an early adapter, you can sell your car for a profit! So our resolve to visit Israel is even stronger: For Kabbalah and to check out the electric cars!

TWINPOPSIS: Exactly! This whole concept of not owning your car battery is just such a mind blowing paradigm shift. And then you have charge stations where while you are parked at a mall, your car battery is charging. They are employing a similar business model as that of mobile phone companies who charge users for every minute of air time you consume.

PAT: By having standardized batteries, car manufacturers lose a profit source. What company do you represent? How did you find us?

An added benefit is that by owning the batteries the maintenance of the electric vehicle goes to $0 and BetterPlace could eventually use the batteries in their system to balance out the intermittent generation (solar and wind) to offset the cost. I don’t think that the profit on the batteries is an issue for the major auto companies, they just like to be proprietary and lock people into their product and they hate to change as we all do.

The real market for the EV is a second car and the BP cars are supposed to go 100mi. In the SF Bay area we have perhaps 50% of households with 2+ cars.

I have a software company – nothing to do with electric cars.

Embedding the battery in the infrastructure, in fact, should be an epiphany for those desireous of a better future.

PAT: Thanks for all your inputs! Very insightful. I’m sorry but I don’t follow how maintenance of the EV goes down to $0? There is the wear and tear of the vehicle and other parts outside of the battery that need maintenance. Care to expound?

I agree that the positioning of the EV is as the second car. Which is why this could be an interesting opportunity in the Philippines (where Lala and myself hail from) where our traffic policies practically bully us into owning a second car (color coding scheme), but shouldn’t that only be true for the initial stage of the process? Eventually shouldnt conventional cars be phased out?

Well… not exactul $0 but most of the hassel of an electric car comes from the batteries. They require care, are often dangerous, lots of maintenance on them, limited number of cycles, etc. The beauty of not owning them is that as new battery tecnology comes about they will be able to upgrade and compatibility is handled by them. Next gen batteries have lots of advances – Na-S, Li-S, Ultracapacitors, special Lead Acid for fast charge, etc. They are also one of the major costs of an Electric car they keep the price high. You still pay it when they own them but it is more like a cell phone, use minutes, pay more.

As to should conventional cars be phased out, not necessarily – nothing has the energy density of gasoline cars (or LPG) and keep in mind that eletricity for the battery comes mostly from fossil fuel (at the power station) so they will be around for many years.

Right now BetterPlace is looking for areas that are contained (Hawaii, Denmark, Israel) and the SF Bay area (where I am) is their first attempt at a large urban area.

I just think it is a killer idea.

My ideal commute vehicle however is a Twike but i am too cheap to buy one – $35,000.

Hi Pat: I hope I’m not coming across as too persisitent. I have one more question. If electricity from batteries come mostly from fossil fuels, then the EV is not very clean and green, isn’t it? The friend that introduced Shai and Better Place to me said electricity can eventually come from solar or wind power to replace fossil fuel. What are your thoughts on that? Also, what did you mean when you said you were a corporate sponsor of Shai?

There are many advantages to electric cars.

Efficiency: The power grid is comprised fo many souces with different efficiencies. The most efficient “base units” are 60% whereas the “peakers” or the units that only run to meet the demand in the afternoon during maximum usagle are only 30% thus power generated at a quiet time at night create only 50% of the pollution/greenhouse gas that the same power consumed at the peak. Overall the grid averages 40% but batteries can be normally charged at night. This is not as cool as wind/solar but does lower the air pollution and green house gasses by 1/2. The ICE (internal combustion engine) is normally around 25% efficient.

Air pollution is concentrated in urban areas and power generation is generally removed from those areas. This has two advantages – the first is that the power plant can be located where the air pollution can dissipate and much of it can be removed and not emitted in the first place. No such advantage for cars – the emissions are whereever you want to drive and tend to concentrate around urban areas.

The very new aspect of renewables is their location – power generated far away and transmitted into a city is done at high voltage (e.g. 350,000 volts) and every step up and step down takes energy. It also requires transmission lines which are very expensive and hard to site – no one wants a power line coming through the neighborhood. There are two kinds of renewables, utility grade (large farms of wind tubines or solar collectors) or ditrubuted energy resouces such as roof top solar. These latter can be used at the source of generation and never converted to high voltage. Batteries are a good use of this power because it can float up and down and the wind changes or clouds pass over the soalr. This also unloads the transmission lines hopefully allowing it not to be built. We are starting to see lots of solar collectors on top of parking lots and buidings. As these cells get cheaper (thin film solar) they wll be everywhere..

Electric vehicles are really quite nice in other areas too such as noise.

As a corporate sponsor we agree to participate in a program to subsidize charge spots in our parking lot and at the homes of employees that buy electric cars. We have also been helping by working some of the local issues for BetterPlace like entitlement and support of the polititions.



[…] Mr. Agassi’s vision is finally coming to fruition.  Cool no? […]

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