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Sitting on the Better Place fence

08 August 2011
Sitting on the Better Place fence

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group.

August 8, 2012. 

OK, this is a slow weekend for EV news in the UK broadsheets after last weekend’s game of cat and mouse in the news and on television. The dear old ever popular Top Gear was shown to be deceiving the public on EVs, and more importantly neither the BBC nor the show’s editor appeared to care. 

Perhaps we’re all tired of standing in our corners and shouting at each other about dinosaurs, Victorian technology and eco-evangelists et al, but this weekend has just been a desert of news on the ever popular EV debate apart from another rebuff from Quentin Wilson

I’m guessing you don’t want to read about another one of my nature walks around Peterborough, so I’m going to cover another ‘polarised’ debate and link you to an New York Times article on Project Better Place (a member of The Climate Group before you ask!) and its new battery-swap station in Denmark:

In summary, the battery-swap station is:

  • one solution to range anxiety;
  • potentially a way of balancing the grid and dumping renewables into a store when available and releasing them when required;
  • possibly on its way to finding a use for batteries beyond the car;
  • a bundled solution for the consumer;
  • a very expensive solution at the moment!

So why are we so polarised in our views? Maybe it's an issue of fear that world domination by dark forces is imminent!

Most likely though, it's down to the initial approach itself, as nobody wants to be ‘told’ stuff, but Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place, is helping to move the subject of EVs forward.

And I’ve finally come to a point where I actually sit on the fence and believe Better Place’s battery-swap stations will be part of the solution. But only a part.

At the last full-on motor show in the UK, the Better Place vision managed to ensure that Gordon Brown, his main SPAD and a bunch of civil servants put together the start of what we now call ‘Electrification of Transport’. Mr Brown chaired a bunch of auto industry and energy sector bosses and debated the subject while outside, the world carried on with its worship and addictions to liquid fossil fuel.

The motor show died that year, but the world is accelerating to Electrification of Transport even after the initial bubble of enthusiasm.

As we continue to drive forward, we’ll end up with multiple low carbon fuels solving different transport needs (not just EVs).

Even within the Electrification of Transport, this solution will be part of the long distance options delivered through:

  • Quick charging
  • Range extenders
  • Better batteries
  • Multi-stage journeys bundled with the aid of clever technology on smart phones
  • Not travelling at all and using the power of broadband
  • Different ownership models
  • And much, much more!

In short, the Better Place option will work and will make money.

For specific fleet operations or whole countries where the ‘sweet spot’ for EVs works we’ll see them succeed - and good on the guy that made it happen and put his money where his large profile is!

We need people to succeed and show the world of doubters (Daily Mail, Top Gear, RAC Foundation…) that tomorrow can be better than today, and with a significantly lower carbon consumption.

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