“As the world’s sixth largest country, our network build out in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size,” said Shai Agassi, CEO and Founder of Better Place.
The Melbourne announcement of the project, backed locally by AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group, revealed a plan to develop a grid of 'charging spots' and 'battery exchange stations' that will enable EVs to function seamlessly throughout Australia.
Better Place's goal is to kick-start the shift of transport from use of traditional fuels to the cleaner energy of the electrical grid. At the moment, the world's transport energy demands far outstrip the ability of the electrical grid to supply it, but with more efforts to make charging and battery exchange stations omnipresent, increased demand could lead to the construction of new electricity plants, helping to expand the capacity of the network.
Agassi has long analogized his program to the cellular phone industry. His vision includes working to build the necessary infrastructure, while independent manufacturers build the cars that will use it. "You can't sell cell phones before you have the towers," said Agassi, anticipating those that would point out that no affordable mass-market EVs yet exist.
Taking the EV campaign to Australia is going to be a daunting effort in more than purely technical respects, however, as the land Down Under has one of the strongest car cultures on earth, exceeding both the UK and the U.S. in per capita vehicle ownership. Weaning the Aussies from their petrol will be no small feat, but Agassi and the Macquarie Group are confident the plan will work. “Electric vehicles represent a more affordable alternative to the conventional combustion powered vehicle. We believe the combination of a competitively priced vehicle, being driven by cheaper and cleaner fuel is a compelling business case,” said David Roseman, Head of Infrastructure and Utilities Advisory – Australasia, Macquarie Capital Group.
Better Place expects the first mass-market EVs to hit Australia, as part of its alliance with Renault-Nissan, in 2012, one year after their debut in Israel and Denmark.