Israel Embraces Electric Cars


By Irma Arkus

News of the day is the announcement by Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres, that Israel will actively engage in a nation-wide effort toward using environmentally friendly electric vehicles.

Personal vehicles in Israel are atrociously expensive due to shipping and taxes (partially employed to discourage growth of traffic) but the general growth of fuel prices has made the market even harder on public. According to Shai Agassi, an entrepreneur participating in the marketing of the electric cars, the increase in gas prices has resulted in creating even playing fields for electric vs. gas vehicles. Even though electric energy has been deemed expensive in past, with US$100 a barrel, this distinction has dissipated.

Whereas the price of gas fluctuates, the electric energy has a more stable price, allowing users to experience stable costs of driving.

Current model will work similar to cell phone plans: the hardware itself will be subsidized, whereas the plan will cover a certain mileage anticipated by the users. Initially reported by NY Times, the public-private partnership will involve Israeli government, Project Better Place company, Renault and Nissan.

I sincerely hope that India, China, US and Canada, as well as European nations adopt a similar national move towards use of low emission vehicles. The greater question however, lies not only in the type of vehicles on roads, but the industries used to produce electric energy. Canada and China, for example, rely largely on use of coal to produce electricity. Coal is not only expensive to extract, but emits high levels of carbon dioxide into atmosphere. Scientific consensus is that if we are to burn all the coal on Earth, our atmosphere should resemble Venus. In other words, definitely uninhabitable.

The Israeli national interest to make a switch to electric vehicles is unprecedented, and should serve as an international example. On the other hand, the production of power in days to come is an even greater pressing concern.