Making the Electric Car Work: Can Israel Succeed?

When a country can't buy oil from most of the Middle East, there are a few smart things to do: reduce consumption, buy from somewhere else, or, introduce the most revolutionary electric car infrastructure ever. For Israel, it's doing all three.

Renault's, soon to be electric, Megane. (from's, soon to be electric, Megane. (from

Nissan, Renault, and Merrill Lynch are all banking on the idea that consumers want to travel cheaply, and do it green. Which is why, they, among others, are financing a project to successfully introduce the mass use of electric cars in Israel. Why Israel? Well, it's small, gas is expensive (think Europe but without the high GDP), gas is hard to get, and the government is willing to give out massive tax breaks to see if the technology will pan out.

Announced on Monday, the plans for electric car infrastructure include the construction of 500,000 quick recharge points throughout Israel and tax breaks for electric vehicle buyers. With the tax breaks, electric cars in Israel will be less expensive to purchase than gasoline engine cars. And with 500,000 places to either recharge while you go get dinner, or just have the exhausted battery taken out and replaced with a juiced up one, a lot of consumers will probably be opening their checkbooks to take home an electric car.

Hopefully Israel gets the Megane Cabriolet in electric form (photo from Israel gets the Megane Cabriolet in electric form (photo from, in association with Nissan, will be selling several of its standard vehicles in electric models for the Israeli market. These won't be weak electrics either; according to the electric engines will perform similarly to a 1.6 litre gasoline engine. With batteries built by NEC, the expected distance of Renault's electric vehicles is around 124 miles, pretty good considering that Israel is only one-third larger than New Jersey. Plus, Israel's most populous areas, aside from Eilat, are located relatively near each other. This means that, for an average Israeli, recharging an electric car at night after driving only a few miles is a feasible alternative to a gasoline engine vehicle. Renault is confident enough that the average Israeli will buy electric cars that it expects to sell 10,000 to 20,000 electric cars per year starting in 2011.

So, could anything hinder the Israeli electric car plan? The answer seems to be a tentative, "no". Unless consumers decide that they don't like the technology, or the vehicles/batteries do not perform as well as a traditional gasoline powered car, we may soon see the first country to successfully introduce widespread use of the electric car.

Sources: , NY Times

Lee Nunley
Middle Eastern Innovations Writer


Jan 25, 2008
by Al Rothman (not verified)

Israel Electric Car

Agassi's plan for an electric car is one big scam. It is no coincidence that his target market is Israel. Israel taxes automobiles at rates that START at one hundred percent. But Agassi's electric vehicle will be taxed at only ten percent, and will cost about $27k in Israel. In any normal country, you could buy a hybrid for that amount, that uses half the fuel of any other propulsion system, and does not require a ridiculous battery exchange infrastructure. With a range of only 100km, a driver that goes 10k kilometers a year would have to exchange batteries on the average THREE times a day. A hybrid in Israel costs about $43k, so you see, the tax advantage bestowed on Agassi's vehicle is the only thing that makes it salable at all, and that only in Israel with its perverse tax structure. Agassi is a genius, but his forte is the Israeli tax system, not battery technology..

Jan 25, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Agassi's scheme is a scam

Agassi's scheme proposes to make EVs viable. The problem is that EVs have batteries that are too expensive and a driving range that is too short. His scheme only attempts to solve the range problem, but does so in th emost inefficient conceivable way - by errecting this monstrous network of heavily manned swapping stations. The network will have to have plenty of extra batteries in reserve to meet customer demand, requiring for every 100 Evs way more than 100 battery packs. But the high cost of those battery packs is one
of the two reasons that battery-only electrics make no sense - and he's making those batteries way more expensive, even when his profits are disregarded. Plug-ins can easily eliminate 98% of Israel's need for liquid fuel, and what small amounts are needed can be produced by ethanol. Israel is making a big stupid mistake by putting their eggs in Agassi's birdbrained scheme. Israel is a small enough country that the idea that there will be plenty of long distance driving that can't be handled by 40 to 60 mile range plug-ins is totally absurd.

Jan 25, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Al Rothman's comments above

1) You said that an Israeli who drives 10,000 km per year will have to change batteries 3 times per day. If you divide 10,000 km by 365 days you find that 27.3973 kilometers would be driven per day by the Israeli who drives 10,000 km per year. And so with the 100 km range this means that for MOST days you do not have to exchange batteries, unless you are going to Eilat for vacation, but the majority of the people do not make such long distance trips every day. In fact, 90 % of all Israelis drive a lot less than 60 kilometers per day.

2) The current lithium batteries are expensive, but again, in a few years the price will decline very fast, and this is already happening. It is true that next year, the new nanotechnology based lithium batteries (from Altair Nano for example) that yield a range of 250 miles (400 km) will cost over $75,000, but this is because these batteries are still manufactured manually in limited quantities. Once mass production starts in a few years, the picture will change. Also please note that all these advanced battery companies are operating on very small venture capital budgets, without the billions of dollars that the U.S. government should have donated, instead of wasting over $500 billion in Iraq. If only 10 % of the money wasted in Iraq were allocated to battery research and development during the last 5 years, then we would be driving electric cars already...

Jan 30, 2008
by Jonathan Romero (not verified)

Israel Electric Car Plans In Need

The whole idea of manned stations to swap batteries is without justification and is a huge needless expense wrongfully imposed upon the Israeli people.
All the Israel government has to do is buy Phoenix motor cars or other such vehicles that use the Altair nano battery which operates on an 8 minute charge, can be charged 20,000 times, never overheats or blows up like ALL other lithium-ion batteries can do, can go from 120 to 240 miles on a single 8 minute charge. Then the israeli gov't can build its own charging infrastructure like a nationwide chain of gas (electric) stations and they are done at minimum expense. The cars perform just like gas autos, only they're electric and cost (with Battery, contrary to above comment) around $35,000 which will go down in the near future since they are opening a large plant in Mexico.