Israel: Cradle of the Electric Car

Can Renault-Nissan and Project Better Place make a success of the low-pollution vehicles in a country with bigger problems than the environment?

Published: 26-Jan-2008

At first glance, Israel hardly appears the most suitable market for launching an electric car. Until recently, environmental awareness was almost nonexistent. Global warming isn't an issue on the top of many Israelis' minds. And though air pollution levels in Israel's major cities are high, there is little enforcement of existing emissions laws.

But Shai Agassi believes over the next three years he will be able to persuade Israelis to embrace his concern for the environment. The ambitious goal of the former SAP (SAP) senior executive is for Israeli private and public transportation to forsake its dependence on expensive imported oil.

On Jan. 21, Renault-Nissan President and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn announced in Jerusalem that his company was joining Agassi's Project Better Place in the Israeli market. Israel was chosen, the two said, because it was an ideal testing ground for the electric car. Ninety percent of automobile owners drive fewer than 70km (43.5 miles) per day, and the country's main cities are within 150km (93 miles) of each other.

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