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PHOTO CAPTION: Shai Agassi being interviewed at 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo credit: Martin Schwoerer.

So Long Gas Station, Hello Battery Charger

Deutsche Welle interviews Shai Agassi in the wake of Better Places orders for 100,000 electric cars and charging stations.

Published: 18-Sep-2009

In 2007, Shai Agassi quit his senior position at German software giant SAP to found his own start-up, Better Place. Now the brainchild of the 41-year old software mogul is poised to turn Israel into a primer on how to get an entire nation off of gas and into electric cars.

On Wednesday, automakers met at the Frankfurt motor show, where the focus was on implementing green technology in the crisis-hit automotive industry. Agassi was there to answer reporters' questions about his company's plans for expansion into other European markets.

What is the reason you were not successful in Germany?

I don’t know, you need to ask them. We tried both with utilities as well as with car makers. We were, I think, misunderstood by some of the players in the market. We’re great enablers and we’re great partners. If you ask Renault, they’ll tell us how great a partner we are.

With all the talk of green car technology, is this a historic event for the auto industry?

Last time any change, any massive change in the automotive sector happened, was 101 years ago…we had the Ford Model T come in, and for the first time had massive production of cars. Since then, for 101 years, pretty much everybody followed the Ford model. The car design, the business model, everything was the same as Ford Model T. Better looking faster cars, bigger, more convenient, but the result? If Henry Ford came here and opened every one of the cars, he’ll know what it is. He’ll know every single component in them. If you opened the books for every one of the companies, he’ll know the business model. You sell cheap and make money on the parts.

That model has failed us. Both on the oil side and the business model in the last year. Its time for renewable, its time for renewal. The renewable source has to come from the sun and from solar power and wind. The renewal has to come in the form of a new business model, new products and new demand from people...

What we’re seeing is, this is the time when cars are available, the infrastructure is available. And a new business model is available for carmakers, that is more profitable, and more sustainable. Not just in the environment but also on the economic side.

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