Israel Looks to Electric Cars

Automaker Renault-Nissan will manufacture the cars and Better Place, a California start-up founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, will build the infrastructure, which may eventually consist of 500,000 charging points and up to 200 battery-exchange stations.

Published: 21-Jan-2008

The Israeli government announced a major initiative to push the nation's drivers toward electric cars on Monday, a move meant to both lessen dependence on foreign oil and address the environmental and health hazards of gas-burning vehicles.

It is not the first time a government has tried to promote electric cars on a mass scale. A 1990 California mandate requiring automakers to sell zero-emissions vehicles famously flopped. But the Israeli attempt is far more sophisticated than anything that precedes it. It aligns policy makers and a major car company with an outfit prepared to build hundreds of thousands of electric charging stations across the country. In an interview with TIME, Israeli president Shimon Peres called the project, "an experimental lab, a pilot project, before it's applied to other, bigger industrialized nations."

Automaker Renault-Nissan will manufacture the cars and Better Place, a California start-up founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, will build the infrastructure, which may eventually consist of 500,000 charging points and up to 200 battery-exchange stations. A pilot involving a few dozen cars will start later this year in Tel Aviv. A few hundred vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2009, with production scaled to the mass market by 2011. On Jan. 13, Israel slashed the tax rate on cars powered by electricity to 10% in order to encourage consumers to buy the vehicles once they are available.

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