In June I wrote about the Israeli electric car company Better Place and serious questions over its human rights record in Palestine and the Middle East.
Today’s Australian features the following story about the company and proves how human rights so rarely enters the corporate media’s understanding of “progress”:
The California-based Better Place electric car company has picked Australia to test the technology before rolling out the cars in the US.
The firm will have charge points and battery-swapping stations in Israel by the end of this year, with Denmark and Australia by the end of next year.
“Australia is a proof of concept for North America,” Better Place Australia chief executive Evan Thornley said yesterday.
“Australia is continental size and it has a federal structure, so part of our role is to prove the network can scale.”
Mr Thornley, founder of the Nasdaq-listed search engine company LookSmart and a former Victorian MP, said the Australian launch would start with Canberra and southern NSW by the end of next year, and then expand nationally. The US states of Hawaii and California would follow soon afterwards.
The Better Place concept is similar to subsidised handset plans in mobile phones. The company covers the cost of the battery — the most expensive component in an electric car — and the driver pays a monthly subscription to recharge or replace the batteries. Heavy-use motorists would probably sign up for unlimited use.
Charging the batteries can take more than an hour, but Better Place would install a charger at the customer’s home and workplace to minimise inconvenience. For trips of more than 160km, motorists would use a battery-swapping station to replace the battery in less than a minute.
Mr Thornley said the distances in Australia were not a problem. “We will electrify the Hume Highway, but the vast majority of driving in this country is in the outer suburbs of the major cities. This is liberating working families from the tyranny of petrol prices.”
By the time the national network was complete in 2013, Better Place should offer full coverage for 80 per cent of Australian motorists, Mr Thornley said. Australians paid $25 billion a year for petrol, and oil prices would rise in the coming decade while electric car battery prices would drop.
On the environment, the car would emit zero emissions because Better Place was committed to getting all its Australian electricity from renewable sources.
Mr Thornley predicted fleet owners would be the first to adopt electric cars because they would see the cost advantage. This would mean a strong second-hand market in coming years.
Better Place Australia has an agreement with Macquarie Bank to raise $1bn over five years and has secured $25 million in funding from AGL, Lend Lease and RACV.