• May 16, 2008

A landmark was recently passed on Israel's road to reduced dependance on foreign oil when Renault and Project Better Place held a demonstration of an electric car that will hit Israeli streets next year. For those unacquainted with Project Better Place, the Silicon Valley start-up headed by tech guru Shai Agassi has teamed up with Renault-Nissan to build and deploy fully electric Meganes in the seaside Middle Eastern country. The batteries that will power the vehicles are built by a joint-venture between Nissan and NEC, have a 125-mile range and will be supported by half a million charging stations and hundreds of battery-swap stations. Those specs should be enough to satisfy drivers in a country barely 60 miles between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and 260 miles from the Red Sea to its border with Lebanon. An initial launch fleet is scheduled to hit roads next year before sales begin in late 2010. The hope is that Israel will prove a suitable test case before the project can be launched in other countries. Norway Denmark has already signed on, but suitability for bigger countries (like the United States, where long commutes are commonplace) will largely depend on advances in battery technology.

[Source: Haaretz via AutoblogGreen]



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  • 34 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      A TRUE SHAME.

      When a tiny Israel is ahead of USA and even ahead of those US states that are trying to do something about global warming (CA,NY).

      How is it that we fell so far behind the rest of the world.

      Man November 2nd can't come soon enough for me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @jonathan charak

        Our educational system, even in the areas you are referring to, is not strong when compared to a lot of other countries that are advancing faster than us.

        Most people just don't know how far behind we have fallen and refuse to acknowledge it. Sort of like not acknowledging that you are cheering for a losing team, mainly because they had a few great accomplishments in the past.

        Americans need to drop some of that foolish pride, realize the weaknesses we have and start taking the right action by improving our educational systems starting with grade schools and especially public high schools. The dumbed down standards we have now does not help our industry nor churn out talented engineers that will make USA a leader once again. If you think I am just blowing smoke think about when was the last time that you bought a TV, Stereo, home theater, or even a computer made in the USA from parts designed and built in the USA, not Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Germany, China,..etc? If you open your MacBook Air I am almost positive you will find most electrical components are not made here.

        Don't get me wrong I'm not 'hating' on this country but our pre-college educational systems are nothing we should brag about. In fact it should shame most of us into doing something to change it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        tanooki:
        This country has some kind of massive inferiority complex. The same people that slap the moniker "Euro" on a coat hook because it has rounded corners (to indicate its superiority) think that we can't measure up to other countries in education.

        Look at the recent study that showed how far we were behind Finland (I think it was Finland) in test scores in high school. Only problem, in Finland, students are separated into college-track and trade school before you go to high school. So the Finns are only testing the better students they have, while we are testing the entire group, of course bringing down the average.

        On top of this, saying poor talent is bringing American companies down is to pretty much ignore that we hire a lot of immigrants in the US. They came here for our colleges and they end up working for American companies.
        • 6 Years Ago
        why is this a shame? A size of country does not correlate to amount of achievements it should have. They have a strong education system through the entire country. We have a strong education system in certain areas.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great press piece. But it's leaving out important info.

      Either it's using lead-acid batteries, or the cost of making the car is very high, or else the story is all BS.

      You guys can whine about GM or whatever all you want, but the big problem with range right now is battery pack size and cost. Any non NiMH or lithium pack that can take this car 120 miles will cost north of $10,000.

      With the "half a million charging stations" part and the hundreds of swap stations bit, I'm leading toward the "BS" idea. They're going to install 200,000 charging stations per year? That'll take some time. And who is paying for it?
        • 6 Years Ago
        A lead acid array probably won't cost north of $10,000; it'll just be f'n heavy & the batteries will take up a lot of space. On the other hand, the nimh or li-ion will likely cost around $10k. Tesla gives estimate of $20k for their pack in their roadster which can go 221 miles combined. But Tesla's using the daisy chain method; I think NEC will probably have a cheaper way to make these batteries (see below) not to mention they might be using a cheaper chemistry than li-ion.

        On your comment about li-ion, the large size li-ion packs definitely have room to get cheaper even assuming current li-ion cells don't ever get cheaper. Transportation ready li-ion packs have only picked up these last couple of years. All the li-ion cells we used in cell phones and laptops are smaller cells. The best you could do with those cells are daisy chain them together like Tesla is doing. It doesn't take a genius to know there are probably more efficient ways to make large battery packs (as an example in the Volt, the companies building the battery have adjusted cell size and shape to fit the application). Li-ion polymer batteries come in here too. They can be layered and don't need a rigid metal casing, meaning they will be more energy dense and they can be made specifically for large packs. Even for the daisy chain method, it's more expensive now because the cells are usually bought and shipped from somewhere else before being put together in a pack (meaning a profit was already made there). If it's all done at the same place (likely to be true in this venture) then it would be cheaper; esp if the whole process is streamlined and they are building the pack from start to finish as a pack for transportation use (this is where "mass produced" comes in too because they have to recover development and tooling costs).
      • 6 Years Ago
      "like the United States, where long commutes are commonplace"

      that's odd, every automaker and think tank we've got puts the average american's daily commute at 30-50 miles.

      oh oh, right, gotta keep electric down, yeah.
      • 6 Years Ago
      @ronnie: wow, someone actually knows and can spell out the truth... respect!

      @the rest: I live in Israel and the word on the street is that if this thing flies everyone who can will subscribe to it... see, we are paying arm and leg just to be able to simply drive a car (100% tax, fuel 2USD per LITRE, insurance cost up a wazzoo and the list goes on...) so if there is alternative model that makes sense economics-wise, hell yeah we will subscribe, green or not...and the political thing doesn't play into it too much, just a nice sideline.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Cool, entire world will switch to electric, while N.A. will keep complaining about high gas prices.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, because no North American companies are building or planning electric cars.

        Of course, if the "entire world" (rather than a few hundred people in Israel) switches to unproven electric Meganes in 2010, then North Americans won't have to worry about high gas prices anymore, will they?
        • 6 Years Ago
        No one is stopping any company from selling electric cars in the US market. The conspiracy to stop those vehicles from being sold here is all in your head.

        Policy makers cant up and say
        "the american people will start buying electric cars"

        Electronics are built in asia because they have a production advantage, not an engineering advantage. A lot of that stuff is designed in the U.S. and built in asia. Look at companies like Qualcomm and Intel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If only the USA had some rich and powerful country handing out unecessary charity to them so they could take inititives like this.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @tankdog

        "Actually my point was, if the USA was in a similar situation to Israel, where it's security needs are mostly paid for by a benefactor, the USA could take that $440 billion military budget and do something a little more peaceful with it like build a nation wide infrastructure to support batteries/hydrogen/compressed air whatever, and build an electric mass transit rail system, and god knows what else."

        Sure anyone can do a lot with $440 billion. Who do we have to blame for not having that? The policy makers that are currently in office. Which is what Mike was saying. But to be fair, we had 3 straight years of surplus ranging from $100billion to $236billion from 98 to 2000 and we didn't invest in the things you laid out. Then the Bush era began....
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ya right. When a country doens't have to spend a dime of it's own money on it's military, it has everything to do with it's domestic policies.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The U.S. gives aid to Israel because that was the deal that Jimmy Carter brokered to convince Israel to withdraw from the Sinai peninsula and give it back to Egypt. Likewise, Egypt was bribed so they would make peace with Israel.

        I'd be fine with killing the deal, but then, I say let Israel take the Sinai back, they won it from Egypt fair and square.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually my point was, if the USA was in a similar situation to Israel, where it's security needs are mostly paid for by a benefactor, the USA could take that $440 billion military budget and do something a little more peaceful with it like build a nation wide infrastructure to support batteries/hydrogen/compressed air whatever, and build an electric mass transit rail system, and god knows what else.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Good response Ronnie.

        And let me just mention that Israel only gets about 3 billion dollars a year from the US. If you are going to tell me that that is a huge amount, well then you really lack common sense.

        It comes down to Israel being the one and only true ally in the Middle East. It is literally a military base for the US in the middle of the desert, well worth what Israel gets from the US.

        I hate when politics is brought up into these forums, but some people really piss me off…
        • 6 Years Ago
        US military aid to Israel is money well spent, and we certainly get more bang for our buck than we do with aid to Egypt, which is on the same order of magnitude. Military aid to Israel is mostly spent in the United States, on US military hardware, so it's as much aid to American's who build the stuff as Israelis who use it. The aid agreement with Israel allows them to spend only 26.7% locally, everything else is spent in the US. It's also not a one way street. Israel's defense industries are among the world's technology leaders. Their avionics are used on US planes and Rafael's Trophy active tank/APC defense system is now spec'd on M1A1 tanks, Bradleys and Strykers.

        As far as economic aid is concerned, that's been dropping since Netanyahu was prime minister. He's a free marketer and recognized that economic aid really wasn't to Israel's advantage. They don't need the crutch.

        As for your contention that:

        "When a country doens't have to spend a dime of it's own money on it's military, it has everything to do with it's domestic policies."

        That's just silly. Israel has one of the highest tax rates in the world and its citizens shoulder much of the financial burden for its defense, not to mention near universal military or national service (with the exception of 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs, who are not drafted and, with strong Palestinian nationalist attitudes, are not exactly loyal citizens). In addition to about a 50% income tax rate, there are VATs and tariffs that are very high. Tax on new cars is 100%.

        One can debate whether military and economic aid to Israel is good policy for either country, but looking at the facts, it's hardly charity since both parties benefit.

        Yes, US aid has helped Israel's economic and technological development. I think on balance this has been for the benefit of Americans. Israel is moving forward with Project Better Place and I think developing an infrastructure for EVs is more to our benefit than developing suicide bomb belts.
      • 6 Years Ago
      But GM just broke 40 miles per charge. Those euros must be lying.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @tankdog:
        The Volt is a plug-in hybrid. Its intended niche is different from an all-electric vehicle. It's providing a different balance of convenience and economy than the Megane, and comparing their ranges is not a little foolish. Also, the EV1 was way too expensive to build profitably. GM didn't "lose the plans", they decided subsidizing their customers and committing financial suicide wasn't a smart idea.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The megane's length in four door version is Length (mm) 4498
        The volt's length as a concept is 4318, the maths to know which is bigger should be simple
        • 6 Years Ago
        XXXXXX, umm... You're not even worth it.. Crack open a physics book.
        • 6 Years Ago
        tankdog, if GM still had the EV1 they would be trying to figure out why, at well north of $100,000 a pop, they can't move more than a token few off dealer lots.

        The Volt is no more vaporware than this electric Megane. Both are being promised for the future. Both are in development. You can't buy either now. Get that through your head. Also, the Volt is not trying to recharge a huge battery pack. It is recharging a small battery pack, one which gives about a 40-mile range.

        The swappable battery pack is a fine idea, with the correct, currently non-existent, infrastructure. As a more plausible convenient near-term solution, something like the Volt makes a lot more sense, especially in the States.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Stanton, the Volt is vapourware, get that through your head. The serial hybrid is a bone headed idea and it's not going to fly. If GM still had a modern EV1 they could be selling them in Israel right now. The swapable battery idea is a hell of a lot better than hauling around a big gasoline engine all day ( and it will be big, bigger than a regular gas engine if it's to power a car and charge a huge battery at the same time).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Its electric only, as in a dedicated electric car. No internal combustion engine. If gm made an all electric it would also have more range then 40 miles. Americans wouldn’t buy it though. It’s also a full sized car not some tiny golf. And yes, the golf was a hell of a lot smaller 15 years ago then it is now. Why is it that the criticism of new electric vehicles seems to always come from the stupidest of the autoblog population? If they made a full sized hybrid pickup that somehow got 25 miles per gallon people would probable go " ha, my miata gets better gas mileage" like that somehow invalidated the accomplishments of said vehicle

        Its like people think automotive professionals are just investing billions in new technology when all they have to do is use current technology that everyone knows about.
        • 6 Years Ago
        quote: "( and it will be big, bigger than a regular gas engine if it's to power a car and charge a huge battery at the same time)."

        The SMALL gas engine only recharges the battey. It doesnt power the car.
        The wheels are powered by the battery/electric motor.

        Got that right?

      • 6 Years Ago
      Guys,

      Being a little more familiar with Project Better Place (http://www.projectbetterplace.com/), let me try to shine some light on this story. The underlying concept of this push is to change the way electric cars are sold and marketed throughout the world. Instead of selling you just the electric car, they want you to view it as more of a product+service contract, just like cellphones are sold in the USA. So basically you buy the car and pay for the charging/battery replacement stations the money you would otherwise spend on gas (i dont know the exact costs).

      The reason they picked Israel and other SMALL countries as their anchoring spots and testing grounds are: 1) people in those countries dont view a 300-400 range is a must because there's no where to drive that's that far. 2) In Israel at least, the need to reduce/eliminate oil dependency is more profound. and 3) Smaller countries, less of initial investment. Imagine having to pay for enough battery swapping changes to provide adequate cover in the US.. think of all the spots you still dont get cellphone service..

      This is a new and fresh concept to rid ourselves of our dependence on oil. If/when it proves successful in the anchoring countries, other nations would benefit from it as well im sure.

      Whew. I'm done.
      -T2
      • 6 Years Ago
      woow 15 years after the VW Golf III citystromer...
      • 6 Years Ago
      125 mile round trip is good enough for most. what do they mean battery swap? like take out drained ones and put in fresh? Like exchanging a propane tank? how large is a battery pack to propel a car like that?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Alright now! This is getting funny. It goes from talking about an all-electric vehicle to military aid?! WTF are you guys smoking?!

      Its common sense man.
      1. Renault Megane - 125 mile range
      2. Chevy Volt - 40 mile range.

      Assume both the cars are priced the same (around 40K USD is what autoblog reported some time back).
      So which one's a better car?!
      Some one spoke about long commutes in the US. Yes 40 miles is greater than 125 miles no?! ???

      Someone else spoke about how expensive Lithium Ion battery packs are. Mass produce and they'll be cheaper. Stop buy a 42K USD BMW 3-series and spend on this car and it'll be cheaper.
      Well ok ...even if its expensive. Let me tell you, you'll still find more than enough buyers.
      The GM EV1, it didnt go down because of high cost of development, or may be it did. But it also went down because of all the underhand lobbying that Oil companies and other car makers did.
      BOTTOMLINE 125 miles > 40miles and you know which one's better.
      If they can do it we can do it.
      They've done it and we havent'! Why haven't we?!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mass produce LIon packs?

        There are about 1 billion cell phones in the world with LIon packs. That's not counting iPods or Gameboys. You make a basic mistake thinking LIon is a new technology, ready to get cheap as it hits the big time.

        LIons are already in ENORMOUS production, and electric cars are not going to increase the production of them in any way that will make them a lot cheaper.

        BILBO:
        You say they can do it so can we? They haven't done it. They said they'd do it. Talk is cheap.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I believe it way posted only yesterday on Autoblog how GM has successfully broken the 40 mile mark in the range for the Volt in HOPES to sell by 2010 .

      Today, we hear that Nissan-Renualt WILL sell a full size four door sedan capable of 125 miles, at least in Israel. This certainly makes the Volt look poor except for the fact that the Volt will supposedly be able to extend it's own range with an on-board generator.

      This electric Meganes is a good sign that full electric cars with usable ranges are in the near future and a true reality. I doubt most American's normal commute is more than even 100 miles round trip.

      This brings me to my point where I believe that all of the domestic car makers should keep their mouth shut on any new cars or developments in order to create more of an shock when they are actually available. My best examples are the Camaro and Challenger which announced that they are going into production years before they actually become available. By the time that they arrive, the pomp and circumstance has faded to a whisper and the excitement that can create thousand of impulse purchases has dulled like a knife dragged through the sand. Wouldn't it be better if GM delayed debuting the Volt a couple of years and then told us all they we could buy one only a few months after the reveal?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Just to set some things straight:

        The Renault Megane is NOT a full sized car. It competes with the VW Golf/Rabbit in Europe, and the Megane Sedan (pictured above) should be the same size as the VW Jetta (the sedan version of the Golf).

        Never the less, it is a good job done by the Renault/Nissan alliance. And yes, it does let the GM Volt look poor by comparison.

        I guess if GM and Ford would have employed their research centers in Europe also for some of their US lineup, these companies would not be in the trouble they are today. They would have been able to switch faster to fuel efficient cars and buy themselves more time to develop decent hybrids.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I also read on the internet that California WILL build a 220mph train between Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and San Diego.

        Only problem. It isn't true. The project isn't approved and isn't designed.

        Go easy on condemning GM and the entire US just because you read a story on the internet promising the moon.
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