Breathtaking vision may not track with reality without the infrastructure to support it.
Agassi's Better Place
envisions a better world with a radically different infrastructure
to "fuel" electric cars. A subscription model gets you the battery,
plus a charging port for your home plus free access to any number of
battery-swapping stations in your area, where, in just five minutes,
your depleted lithium ion battery gets yanked out by a robot and
replaced by a fully charged battery.
Better Place tries to address
the different human experience with easy comparisons. "Battery
swap?" Just like filling your gas tank only this is automated. But
the fact of the matter is that the infrastructure has to be built. Not just the cool Jetsons-era swapping stations, but the cars
themselves, made by Renault.
But electric vehicles, while cool and hip, are new to the human
experience when it comes to their infrastructure. Those on the road
today are sensitive to the notion and they're still struggling.
What's not to like about a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt that can
plug into any outlet? Plenty, which is why their sales are lousy.
120V charge takes forever, and there are few if any $15,000-a-pop
fast charging stations in most communities. General Motors engineers
were so sensitive to the infrastructure situation that they built a
gas-powered backup engine to take those range (and use-case) worries
off the table.
As an innovation society, we can't begrudge the visionaries, ever.
They make us question our old, rusty assumptions; they drag us into
the future. But there is a breathtaking luminance that a stint on
TED Talks can bring to visionaries and their ideas--really, a life
of their own. We, with stars in our eyes, are swept up by the
often-Utopian subtexts of great technological ideas (cue lovely
slides of Alpine meadows and children running through verdant
We can forget that the most successful visions, the ones that really
transform society, don't boil the ocean. They sail on it.
cars venture raises $200 million
venture gains momentum