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Heal the World: Make it a Better Place

by Meghan

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Imagine driving to and from work everyday, not carpooling, and not feeling guilty about it. Now picture yourself driving half a mile to the market without being criticized for contributing to ozone depletion (“you should've walked!”) or for caring more about your car than the planet. If you love your ride – and loathe your bike and public transportation – this fantasy is about to come true. And electric cars are your ticket to paradise.Better Place, a Palo Alto startup founded in October 2007, plans to make these new-fangled electric vehicles easily accessible to everyone in the world by 2020. The innovative company envisions battery-powered, affordable, low-maintenance automobiles that will look and feel like the petroleum-powered brands we love now. Once drivers get hold of these babies, Better Place foresees battery charging stations in place of gas stations, battery switching spots alongside the roads, and automated software to tell you when it’s time to switch and charge. Pretty soon juicing up a zero-emission vehicle will be even simpler than spotting a low-fuel light in a gas guzzler.

But how will each family come up with the funds for an electric car, especially when the required batteries are exorbitantly priced? Better Place has an answer: Instead of paying in full for entities like batteries and cars, we'll simply subscribe to the company’s transportation services. A Better Place subscriber will get a car, a battery, and all the necessary services required for maintaining a zero-emission ride (such as battery charging and switching). The company compares its monthly transportation subscription to that of a cell phone provider's: "We pay mobile providers for minute-by-minute access to cell towers connected together in cellular networks. Truth is, we pay comparatively little - or next to nothing - for the phones themselves… Just replace the phone with an electric car, replace the cell towers with battery recharge stations, and replace the cellular networks with an electric recharge grid. Now you're buying miles, not minutes."

According to Better Place's business model, battery charging stations will be located in parking garages, retail spaces, street curbs, and even in drivers' homes. The chargers are weather-proof and generate the same amount of voltage as a standard electrical outlet in your home, so they're completely safe. Automated battery-exchange stations will also populate the roads and freeways, as a fully charged battery lasts for only 100 miles. But all you'll have to do is pull up, put your car in neutral, and let the station do the work – in less than three minutes.

Better Place claims it will not only alleviate our oil addiction, it will build a carbon-free economy that will create new jobs and a stronger interest in renewable energy: "As the electric car network grows, the market for green energy will grow with it, encouraging future investment in wind farms, solar power fields and geo-thermal plants."

The company has already recruited a good number of U.S. states (including California and Hawaii) and countries (such as Israel, Denmark, Australia, and Canada) to follow its business model. These markets have been entrusted to set up the world's first electric car networks, and many more countries are expected to be onboard within months. California is a particularly exciting market for this network; Better Place says it is the eighth largest economy in the world, and each household owns and average of 1.8 cars – one of the highest vehicle ownership rates on the planet. With its new infrastructure, California could create $2.5 billion in jobs, according to Better Place – a boom that could be advantageous for not only the Golden State but also the global economy.

To watch California’s press conference on the topic, click here . To learn more about Better Place, visit its website at www.betterplace.com .

 

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