'Obama may adopt Israeli electric car'

Incoming US president could adopt project to help revive US economy, Israeli innovator declares.

electric car 88 248 (photo credit: )
electric car 88 248
(photo credit: )
The incoming Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the innovative electric car project being developed by Israel's Better Place company, "and may be adopting it," Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place, has told The Jerusalem Post. Heralding a potential private transport revolution, a leading US car manufacturer is also now "putting together a team" to work on the project, Ofer said. Renault-Nissan agreed 18 months ago to build the first cars, and will be mass-producing hundreds of thousands of the electric-powered vehicles by 2010, he noted. Ofer said the electric car was a natural fit for the Obama presidency as it prepares to grapple with the global financial crisis, environmental concerns, a dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly countries and a collapsing conventional car-building industry. The crisis afflicting Detroit was underlined Thursday, when the Bush administration said it was seriously considering "orderly" bankruptcy as a way of dealing with the desperately ailing auto industry. "There's an orderly way to do bankruptcies that provides for more of a soft landing. I think that's what we would be talking about," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. The comments came a day after Chrysler LLC announced it was closing all its North American manufacturing plants for at least a month as it, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. await word on government action. General Motors has also been closing plants, and it and Chrysler have said they might not have enough money to pay their bills in a matter of weeks. Ofer said he was anticipating "the electrification of America" as Barack Obama's logical instrument for rescuing the industry, as well as promoting environmental responsibility, enabling reduced oil dependence and underpinning economic revival. "This is very dear to the heart of the Obama administration," he said, noting that Obama's newly announced choice for energy secretary, Nobel physics laureate Steve Chu, "is a huge advocate of alternative energy. He says we must get away from oil." Ofer said that "America spent somewhere between $500 [billion] and $700b. on imported oil in 2008." The incentive to shift away from that kind of dependence was overwhelming, he said. When "you hear announcements" from the incoming administration about reviving Detroit with electric cars, job creation in battery factories and modernizing the national electricity grid, said the Better Place chairman, "you'll know that it will have come from us." The Post was awaiting a response from Obama's officials at press time. Obama officials said this week that the president-elect was laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850b. over two years. Like public works projects of the depression era, they said, Obama's plan would feature spending on roads and other infrastructure projects as well as new and renovated schools. It also would aim for energy-efficient government buildings and development of environment-friendly technologies. Better Place, established 14 months ago by entrepreneur Shai Agassi, aims to switch cars worldwide from the pump to the plug, using battery-powered electric vehicles that would recharge at parking meter-style "charging spots," on a grid powered by renewable energy. Israel, Denmark and Australia are formally committed to the idea. Earlier this month, the Japanese government invited Better Place to work with its local car manufacturers on a first electric car venture. The state of Hawaii signed up to a pilot program last week. The Renault-Nissan vehicles will cost about the same as conventional cars for now, but will ultimately be cheaper, said Ofer. He said they have comparable acceleration, can reach comparable speeds (of 150 to 180 kph) and can run 150-200 kilometers on a single battery.