Shai Agassi's Project Better Place has received quite a lot of press lately for its seemingly futuristic plans to bring electric vehicles and recharging stations out of the movies and into the streets. The future is now, however, as the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Project Better Place have officially joined forces to produce electric vehicles in Israel. An early announcement of the Alliance's involvement was made last November, but now details of the project are developing. Production ramp-up and installation of the charging grid will happen over the next few years, with consumer availability targeted for 2011.

The all-electric vehicles are perfectly suited to Israeli driving - over 90% of the driving populous travels less than 70km (42mi) daily, and major cities are less than 150km (90mi) apart, meaning the limited range of an EV will not be a problem, especially once recharging stations are salted around the nation. In fact, Project Better Place plans no fewer than 500,000 such recharging spots, complete with an on-board computer system that will alert the driver when recharging is needed and indicate the nearest charging station.

Aside from the fit of the vehicle to the Israeli driving style, the venture makes good business sense for both the consumer and the companies involved. Total cost of ownership of the EVs involved in the project is predicted to be significantly lower than comparable fuel-based cars, thanks to tax incentives and the lower cost of electricity relative to petrol or diesel. Performance is expected to equate to a 1.6L petrol engine, so the efficiency savings are impressive - cars powered by 1.6L petrol motors are some of the most efficient available today.

Like the cars themselves, the business model is totally different traditional car ownership. While the consumer will still own the vehicle, they will pay for energy - and battery - use on a subscription basis, and will be billed on the basis of distance driven. Those familiar with mobile phone sales and monthly use plans will see an immediate similarity.

Many have doubted Project Better Place's ability to bring its model of electric vehicle ownership to life, but the involvement of the Renault-Nissan Alliance lends strong credibility to the project's potential for commercial viability. However, the very things that foretell success in Israel may prevent it from translating well to other areas of the world - people in many places, even large cities, drive far more than 70km per day. Similarly, developing a dense blanket of charging stations in a country the size of Israel is more easily achieved than doing the same in a nation the size of the United States.