NETANYA, Israel Project Better Place, an Israeli venture focusing on electric cars is raising an intial sum of $200 million.
The list of investors in Project Better Place includes Israel Corp., Morgan Stanley, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and private investors James Wolfensohn, Edgar Bronfman Sr. and Musea Ventures.
The head of the venture is Shai Agassi, formerly president of SAP's product and technology group. Agassi left SAP (officially in early April) and said he wished to focus on "green" issues. Agassi's aim is to help Israel end its dependence on oil within 10 years, and the creation of an electric vehicle industry would support that aim. The venture received the official support of the Israeli government, but is not receiving any public funds.
According to reports, the venture is in talks with companies like France's Renault SA, and car makers in China, Japan and elsewhere in Europe.
Agassi suggests there will be 1 million electric cars in a few years' time in Israel alone.
The venture will focus on building out an infrastructure of battery-charging stations for electric vehicles. The comparative model offered is that of mobile phone companies building out the mobile infrastructure. The aim is to cooperate with car and battery markers in a way that subscribers to the electric car network will get subsidized cars, but will still own their vehicles.
Executives at Project Better Place claim that the electricity per one electric car will only cost about $175 a year, although many experts in Israel are skeptical about this low figure.
"Project Better Place offers a compelling business and environmental case for how to address global energy and transportation challenges. We now have 700 million cars driving on the world's roads, annually emitting 2.8 billion tons of CO2," said Idan Ofer, chairman of Israel Corp and of Project Better Place."
The company is currently in discussions with various governments to establish pilot sites in countries other than Israel, with plans to begin rollout of the new infrastructure in early 2008.