Better idea for car ownership will fuel solar industry

Better Place car Better idea for car ownership will fuel solar industry

A company named Better Place has a better idea about car ownership in a post-oil world.

Here’s the concept:

You pay for the electric vehicle (like the Renault-Nissan Rogue shown above) .

They pay for (and own) the $11,000 battery. And the networkof charging stations. And the switching stations where customers canswap their nearly empty battery for a full one on long trips.

Under this scenario, you’ll buy the car in the usual way. But allthe costs associated with powering the vehicle will come in the form ofa pay-per-mile contract. The concept is familiar to anyone who has apay-per-minute cell phone contract. The cost to the consumer pencilsout at a point well below what gasoline-powered drivers currently pay.

(Last December, Better Place has forged a partnershipunder Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative, to help the state meet its goalof getting 70% of its energy from renewable sources, including solar,by 2030.)

The difference increases with the inevitable rise in the price ofoil. EV operation becomes even more attractive compared togasoline-powered cars with a decline in the cost of electricity. That’sbased, in part, on technological improvements that make batteries moreefficient.

A study by the University of California releasedyesterday forecasts a bright future for this business model. Under theplan, researchers believe that EVs will account for as much as 86% ofall new car sales in the US in just two decades. (The low end figurefor their model is 64% of all new domestic light vehicles.)

“Separating the purchase of the battery from the car,” the studyfound, “from the car and incorporating its financing into a servicecontract that pays for the electricity and charging infrastructureradically changes the pricing possibilities for electric vehicles.”

Car buyers are more likely to choose EVs if their concerns aboutbattery life and cost are removed from the decision, the study found.

According to the study, other key benefits of adopting EVs at this scale include:

EVs in the US study Better idea for car ownership will fuel solar industry

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  • A decrease in oil imports of between 18-38%.
  • A reduction of the US trade deficit by a third.
  • A net increase of as many as 350,000 new jobs.
  • Health care saving of between $105-$210 based on lower levels of airborne pollutants.
  • A 69% decline in CO2 emissions — if the electricity to charge thebatteries comes from renewable, clean sources such as solar or wind.

With the aid of $45 million from the state of Hawaii, Better Placeis already installing charging stations in key areas of the islands.The company also plans on building a billion dollar charginginfrastructure throughout the San Francisco Bay area.

Battery development is a burgeoning field in its own right. TheJapanese company, A123, announced plans to produce the kind ofLithium-ion battery used by EVs at a new $2 billion facility inMichigan.