Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Better Place and the Electric Vehicle

Many people are very excited about Better Place! Their business model thinks well beyond the electric vehicle by considering the infrastructure requirements, governmental partnerships, and renewable energy needed to make this work. It's a good example of thinking about the interconnected parts of a bigger picture when creating new, sustainable value.

Listen to what some investors think of Better Place

Listen CEO Shai Agassi...very inspiring

The question still remains though where all the electricity is going to come from if we placed the demand of 900,000,000 electric vehicles (amount of vehicles in the world today) on the grid. Nuclear seems to be fading as a viable option because it is deemed too expensive and unreliable...not to mention the fact that we have no idea what to do with the toxic waste it creates. Fueling the cars with renewables would be the ultimate sustainable solution but renewables struggle to make any significant dent in power contribution. A leader in renewables, Germany is at about 16-17% of power originating from renewables and Denmark just passed 20%. Now tack on demand from electric vehicles and this portion plummets. The only viable solution as of now is coal, but the emissions created from the coal plants to generate the extra power offsets the emission reductions from moving to EVs. But what about carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)? Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at CIBC World Markets, nicely warns of the shear magnitude of emissions that would need to be stored if we used coal for these vehicles. It would take roughly 6 billion tons of CO2 annually to power the 247 million American EVs, which is the equivalent of trying to capture and store 76 million military tanks somewhere in the Earth.

The CEO of Better Place claims that the power generated for these vehicles will be from renewables. I admire the fact that he's thinking about the source of electricity in his business model...but time will tell whether this is realistic.

(Rubin, 2009: Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller; Randomhouse, Toronto

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