Shai Agassi Goes Canadian, eh, With Better Place in Ontario

snow bus sorry canada photo

We were too distracted by the war with Gaza over the last few weeks to take notice that Shai Agassi from Better Place, the Israeli electric car guru, is now working on a deal with Canada. Those Canadians love their SUVs, and trucks to plow through Canadian winters, but maybe some Torontonians and yuppies that don’t drive their kids in 4x4s to school, would go for the plan.

Here’s the press release, issued January 15: Better Place today announced a partnership with the government of Ontario to help bring an electric car network to the province and create a model for the adoption of electric cars in Canada.

Ontario, which is one of North America’s largest car producing regions, seeks to transition its auto manufacturing sector for future growth from electric vehicle production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“With today’s announcement, Ontario is taking a system-wide approach to retooling its economy for growth and environmental leadership,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place. “Our partnership will move Ontario toward a new era in personal transportation – from the current Car 1.0 model centered on the internal combustion engine to a Car 2.0 model of electric cars powered by renewable energy. Today’s announcement is the all-important first step in an expected electric car charging network rollout for Canada, and we look forward to working in partnership with the Ontario government on it.”

The company appointed Lawrence Seeff as Head of Americas Business Development. Mr. Seeff brings more than 20 years of global real estate and financial experience from leading and growing a privately-held, multi-billion-dollar firm.

Better Place will establish its Canadian head office in Ontario, and build an electric vehicle demonstration and education centre in Toronto to lay the groundwork to help get electric vehicles running on Ontario roads.

Ontario committed to feasibility study

The province has committed to conducting a comprehensive study, which will look at ways to speed up the introduction and adoption of electric vehicles. The study is scheduled for release in May 2009. At the same time, Better Place will be developing an electric car charging network plan and timeline.

This announcement maintains the province’s traditional strength in automotive production while incorporating the forward thinking technology of battery operated vehicles. Embracing this technology in its early stages will provide the province with the stimulus needed for enhanced job creation and economic growth.

Under the Better Place model, the company plans and installs a network of charge spots and battery exchange stations, giving drivers the same convenience to “top off” as they enjoy today with gasoline stations. Much like the mobile phone model, Better Place installs and operates the network of charging infrastructure, while leading auto manufacturers produce electric cars for the Better Place network. Better Place sources renewable energy to power the network, creating a zero emission solution from generation to grid to transportation.

Sustainable transport service

For consumers, it means they’re able to subscribe to a sustainable transportation service. Better Place provides the batteries to make owning an electric car affordable and convenient. Better Place will install charge spots in parking spaces at home, at work, and at retail locations, which enable the network to automatically top off the electric car.

For distances longer than what most people drive in a given day, drivers will pull into battery exchange stations to swap a depleted battery for a fresh one in less time than it takes to fill a car with gasoline.

Better Place is partnering with Bullfrog Power, Canada’s only retailer of 100 percent green electricity, and Macquarie Group, a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services, and is continuing to build other relationships both locally and around the world. In Ontario, Bullfrog Power will provide all of the renewable energy needed to power the Better Place network.

Bullfrog power, emissions-free

“Better Place is leading a bold and compelling movement, and we are excited to provide 100% clean, renewable electricity for its network and cars powered by it,” said Tom Heintzman, President, Bullfrog Power. “For truly emissions-free transportation, it is crucial that we not simply transfer the problem from the tailpipe to the generator. Better Place is taking a firm stance by committing to fueling electric vehicles with renewable power.”

Macquarie will partner with Better Place as financial advisor on developing a network rollout plan and investment timeline for Ontario. Michael Bernstein, Senior Managing Director of Macquarie Capital Markets Canada Ltd., said, “The Better Place business model is an exciting opportunity for the domestic auto industry, the clean energy industry and the public sector to assist in the development of a sustainable transportation market in Canada. Macquarie is pleased to deploy its expertise in assisting Better Place and Ontario to develop a new electric vehicle network in Ontario.”

The Better Place network of electric car charging infrastructure is built on open standards. One goal of the growing Better Place ecosystem, which includes The Renault-Nissan Alliance, is giving consumers a wide range of choices when it comes to vehicle make and model. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment also has invited Better Place and major Japanese carmakers to participate in a major electric car project there.

More about Better Place:
Better Place is a mobility operator that aims to reduce oil dependence by delivering personal transportation as a sustainable service. Launched in 2007 with $200 million of venture funding, the company builds electric-vehicle networks powered by renewable energy to give consumers an affordable, sustainable alternative for personal mobility.

Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia, California and Hawaii. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

More on Better Place:
Project Better Place Unveils Prototype of Electric Car Recharging Station
Israel’s Electric Car Guru Gets Wired
Israel’s Electric Car and Impact on Water Shortage
Green Smoke And Mirrors: A Voice of Reason on the Electric Car Hype

(Image credit: txberiu)

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