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Forget about the hybrid auto -- Shai Agassi says it's electric cars or bust if we want to impact emissions. His company, Better Place, has a radical plan to take entire countries oil-free by 2020.
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Electric carsAs a child, my grandfather worked for NASA where he was also president of the NASA Electric Car Club of Mountain View, California. In the late 70s he bought a Serbring Vanguard Electric CitiCar, and in the early 80s acquired a second one as a parts car (manufactured during the 70s Opec Oil embargo, the CitiCar still holds the distinction as the most mass produced street legal electric car). I rode in it with him often when I was young.
I grew up believing that electric cars were destined to be our future. As is often the case, the future is taking longer to get here than I expected. If you had asked me in my youth, I would have confidently predicted a transition to an electric automotive industry by the turn of the century. Alas-- Many deeply vested interests, combined with a volatile oil price that is often too low to encourage investment in electric automobiles, have conspired to hold this inevitability at bay for another decade.
Forward thinkers like Shai Agassi, Elon Musk and Wang Chuan-Fu are pushing the industry and creating momentum. When I first heard about his battery exchange concept I was skeptical, but then I read abut how he modeled it after cellphone plans where the cellular networks subsidized the cost of the phones in exchange for subscription contracts, suddenly I was intrigued. This video was the first time I've heard him speak, and I'm pleased to see that he is also a very persuasive speaker and good pitch-man for his ideas.
Shai was a young hot-shot at SAP, and he had a very bright future there. Someday future CEO was not out of the question. But he had bigger ambitions and I'm glad he did. Against the odds, many fortunes have been lost pursuing new automotive companies. I hope to see him succeed in this venture (I would also be pleased to have him as a client).
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