The tiny nation of Israel is stoked, because it could be the first nation in the world to adopt a fully electric car for the mass market. Its high standard of living, rising fuel prices, and small area make it a perfect pilot site for the Better Place idea – a highly networked grid of charge stations and battery replacement depots to make driving the electric car convenient. Unlike petrol-fueled cars as we know, electric cars can take hours to refuel. That’s why Better Place has developed a quick battery replacement depot, to avoid the wait. The depot was debuted in Japan last year.
Part of Better Place’s business plan has been intertwined with the investment from Renault-Nissan, which has been designing a series of models of cars with the switchable batteries. The cars have been showcased around the world, most recently at the climate change conference in Copenhagen, and also in Israel at the Better Place education center. Green Prophet attended the inaugural ceremony. But news out yesterday, is that the mega Israeli holding company, Israel Corporation, will be developing its own line of cars with a Chinese firm, Chery.
In a story reported in the israeli business newspaper Globes, the Israel Corporation (TASE: ILCO) is now working on developing its own line of cars to serve the Better Place dream of fully electric cars driven by everyone. The cars, the report points out, will also have a gasoline engine model and it will be based on the engine made by Chery-Quantum LLC, a new joint venture between Israel Corp. and Chery Automobile Company Co. Ltd.
Engineers and partners in the deal include Austria’s Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik AG & Co KG and Italy’s Italdesign – Giugiaro SpA. By October 2010, the companies will have developed technical and engineering concepts for four models:
1. The Chery urban compact CF1X
2. A family sedan CF11
3. The hatchback based on the same chassis CF14,
4. The compact road-off road recreation vehicle CF16
Some €37.2 million in being invested in the first stage, reports Globes.
By 2012, Magna Steyr and Italdesign – Giugiaro will have developed the specs for mass production at the Chery-Quantum plant, at a cost of €120 million.
Globes explains why the sudden development move:
Israel Corp. estimates that in order to begin mass production of the electric cars, it will require an additional €400 million in outside financing, which it will obtain from banks and government grants.
Better Place’s only current electric car is the Renault Fluence. Industry sources believe that Renault has imposed numerous restrictions on the global marketing of the car, which is why a source of cars from Israel Corp., which currently owns 40% of Better Place, is a critical factor for the venture’s business development.