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After lots of initial enthusiasm and many deals done, Project Better Place is starting to attract some critics. The most recent fault-finding flak comes from Karin Kloosterman who suggests that PBP is "green smoke and mirrors." In a piece for the Huffington Post....wait a sec., isn't that a website for latte-slurping, Prius-collecting, (etc. etc.) liberals who are all gaga about the prospect of electric cars? We'll leave it to you to decide which media outlets are fair and balanced while we focus on this one article.

The Kloosterman piece takes issue with the Project Better Place model on a few fronts. After a few niceties, she takes a jab at the subscription part of the model, comparing it to the Sony Betamax debacle suggesting that the proprietary nature of the battery and car would not compete well in an open market. She follows up that somewhat salient point with the mention of a couple of the problems of establishing battery-swapping infrastructure such as cost and available real estate.

Her final points are mostly borrowed from an Israeli commentary. While the suggestion that it may not be a stroke of genius to introduce two million new private cars into the small country and instead divert national development money to city-connecting light rail projects, though slightly overstated, has its merits, her advice to wait until Israel develops a different method of electricity generation does not. While the coal used now may be nasty and ought to be phased out as quickly as possible, it is still cleaner than a multitude of new tailpipes, not to mention that if planned properly, the existing generation capacity may well be sufficient to power the first few years of electric-car influx, thereby reducing overall pollution and CO2 production and giving further impetus to cleaner future energy generation. Your opinion is always welcomed in the comments section after the post.

[Source: Huffington Post]


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  • 19 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Her piece seems like typical surface journalism that doesn't understand actual core issues, but dances broadly over the surface.

      A Betamax analogy is flawed here. If the project fell apart, setting up alternate charging would be straight forward.

      The model is not battery swapping when they "wear out" which I assume she means exhaust charge. The model appears to be charge on smart grid. Swaps when going a long distance.

      Someone needs to shoot the next person who brings up the "Dirty electricity" argument.

      Finally the FUD about the roads filling up with cars/more accidents now that electrics are viable and shouldn't we be using bicycles is chuckle worthy.

      Swapping batteries as a range extension seems a reasonable choice. Having multiple lease/usage models for the batteries may also make sense, but without all the details on battery cost, charging costs etc.., it is hard to make an assessment. This lightweight article offers nothing but uninformed opinion.

      Personally I am not a fan of leasing models. I prefer ownership.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't think that it is much of a problem if the PBP battery only works with the PBP vehicle. There is nothing to prevent another company doing the same thing and going into competition as long as they are willing to make the same kind of enormous investment.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Kloosterman apparently assumes that the batteries must be swapped for recharging, which is rediculous. The battery swapping is only for those times when speed is of essence, or when the battery is nearing the end and must be replaced.

      There are actually two parts to Project Better Place - Public Charging, and Battery Swap Stations.

      Public charging will likely be non-proprietary, able to work with a variety of EVs and PHEVs, even those without "swappable" batteries.

      The "Swappable batteries" would have to be standardized and proprietary, as the swap stations cannot afford to carry a wide variety of different batteries. The batteries must be leased from the swap company, it is the only practical way to avoid disputes in ownership - as many have pointed out, no one would swap their own new battery for an older one, but if leased is no concern. However, those "proprietary swappable batteries" could be used in a variety of EVs, the only requirement is that those EVs meet the standards of PBP, and maybe pay a licensing fee. In return, the auto makers could offer inexpensive EV models without the cost of the battery pack.

      While it is possible that another competing "battery swap" design may arise, the high costs and competition would likely leave only one standing, much like VHS eventually vanquished Beta, and Blu-Ray vanquished HD-DVD. Sometimes, a well regulated monopoly is actually a good thing.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, BBH (BlackBird Highway), I agree and disagree w' ya.

      If you read Romm http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/climateprogress/lCrX/~3/307604602/ you come away that there is some hope. OTOH, 99 of 100 senators voted against a Renewable Portfolio Standard, when it most recently came to a vote.

      So, I would agree with you that it is fallacy to look to the politicians. They will follow along when the way the wind blows, and more importantly the way the campaign contribution flow. I would disagree with your assertion that the majority of people do not want such change.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Like the Altairnano nanosafe(in Lightning GTS and Phoenix MC)a rapid charging battery eliminates the need for swapping. Zap your Ev in
      • 7 Years Ago
      The overarching goal of Project Better Place is to replace the existing fleet of carbon dioxide and smog-spewing gasoline powered cars with carbon-free, no tail pipe electric cars, thereby addressing not only the oncoming climate crisis but also our oil addiction and the resulting economic and geo-political issues. Simultaneously, we will provide a great driving experience at a reduced cost to the vehicle owner. It’s win win win: for our environment, national security and the global economy now being buffeted by $130 per barrel of crude oil. The goal is not, as implied in Ms. Karin Kloosterman’s recent blog, to add more cars to Israeli streets.

      Project Better Place transcends the “electricity from coal versus gasoline from oil” energy source debate by powering electric vehicles through bulk purchases of carbon-free electricity. Not only does this immediately reduce the vehicle’s operational carbon footprint to zero, but it has the additional benefit of jumpstarting Israel’s nascent clean electric power industry. In other countries, depending on how the clean electricity is generated, there maybe different benefits. In Denmark, for example, Project Better Place’s electric vehicles will increase the utilization of intermittent wind power by timing vehicle charging during periods of increased wind intensity while not impacting the drivability of the vehicle.

      Regardless of the country, Project Better Place’s mandate remains the same: ending our reliance on oil as a transportation fuel through the clean electrification of the transportation sector.

      Sven Thesen, Project Better Place
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dear #15,

      Israel needs more cars on the road like a hole in the head. If Project Better Place really wants to change the world, they should revolutionize mass transit and clean fuel.

      Sven, Israel's infractructure minister is planning for a new coal plant in Israel. I think we'd need a magician in order to transcend any fantasies of "carbon-free electricity" any time in the near future.

      I am sorry to rain on the electric car parade, but in my opinion there are too many people who are missionizing this project and not enough people adding a voice of reason. That's what my post intended to do.

      - Karin Kloosterman

      P.S. I don't slurp lattes, and I don't collect Priuses.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I appreciate the opportunity to comment. It supports the idea of freedom of speech and freedom of the Press in the United States. Thus, I want to be respectful of this opportunity while saying that you are full of cow manure with your Syngas spin, Yoney.

      When you write, "While the coal used now may be nasty and ought to be phased out as quickly as possible, it is still cleaner than a multitude of new tailpipes," you are not only wrong, but dangerously wrong in an assertion that continues to threaten life on the planet as we know it.

      When you write, "if planned properly, the existing generation capacity may well be sufficient to power the first few years of electric-car influx, thereby reducing overall pollution and CO2 production and giving further impetus to cleaner future energy generation" you fallaciously link clean energy with coal and omit recognition that Israel is a leader in solar, which, sadly the United States was years ago.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @jcwinnie:
      Perhaps I could have better presented my point of view. Please allow me to clarify my position.
      First of all, although I come from a coal mining family, I personally believe the best thing we could do with coal is nothing. Leave it in the ground. I'm not personally interested in using it to produce electricity and further poisoning the water and atmosphere. Not interested in Syngas or even carbon sequestration for that matter. Solar is great (as is conservation). In Israel it is used mainly to heat the water of about 80% of the houses. They have just announced a new 500MW installation to be finished by 2012 which, of course, is great.
      From what I've read though, powering electric cars with coal-produced power is less CO2 intensive than using internal combustion engines. Check out the Sherry Boschert link provided by another commenter. Add to that the fact that charging cars off-peak when there is excess capacity being generated allows more transportation miles on the existing amounts of fuel being spent.
      http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=204
      Then add to that the the energy mix isn't 100% coal but also includes sources such as natural gas, etc.
      Hope that helps clear things up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The big problem with Program Better Place is that their underlying business strategy is just fundamentally flawed.

      With rapid advances in battery technology and immerging completive markets for batteries, it is just plain stupid to make a massive capital investments in battery packs that you hold on your books, when there is a high probability that the battery packs will be rendered obsolete in short order---transferring that risk to end users is simply a better approach.

      Additionally, the entire rental and swap model is based on overcoming the inability of battery packs to rapidly charge—once that has been overcome your business model is merely charging stations, which would have a low barrier to entry for competitors.

      Overall, PBP is a capital intensive business plan based on a proprietary model. Some car company comes out with a EV with >125 mile range and 15 minute charging and BAM! You’re out of business.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think PBP makes sense for Israel for one reason. National security. It may not be the best for the enviroment but not having to buy oil from countries that hate you is a good thing. I want alternative powered cars in the USA for the same reason. I want electric cars in the US even if we have to use coal plants to power them. National security is my primary concern. That does not mean I don't care about the enviroment, it is just not my number one priority.
      • 7 Years Ago
      PBP will have to build flexibility into their system, just like many other businesses an adapt to shifting conditions.

      No matter how flawed the plan may appear to many people, it is exactly 1 plan more than the US has in place.

      I think everyone's putting too much emphasis on the battery-swap stations, a minor part of the complete project. By the time the first cars are up and running, PBP may find they don't need them at all. Israelis don't do much, if any, driving to Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.
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