Brave Thinkers

Illustration by Quickhoney

Name: Shai Agassi
Job: Founder of Better Place
Why he’s brave: He’s building a nationwide network of electric car charging stations.
Quote: “Charge spots will be everywhere, like parking meters. Only instead of taking money from you when you park, they give you electrons.”


Electric cars would make everyone happy. They don’t pollute, they can be powered using renewable energy like wind and solar, and they’d undermine nasty oil-rich regimes. The problem has always been how to charge them: electric cars can typically travel only 50 miles or so without a recharge. Agassi, a former executive at the software giant SAP, has a solution that will lead either to acclaim and fortune, or to a very expensive, and public, failure. He hopes to create a national electric-car infrastructure that consists of charging stations where motorists could plug in to refuel, along with switching stations where they could swap out old batteries for new ones during longer trips. Agassi has backing from Renault-Nissan, and has inked deals with governments in Israel, Denmark, Japan, Canada, and the United States to start testing roadside stations.  He intends to make electric cars the standard way society travels in the 21st century. It helps that he (and his investors) may make a lot of money doing so: they plan to lease the batteries to consumers and charge them a fixed amount per mile driven, much the way mobile-phone companies now operate. For the big car companies, almost all of which have electric-car initiatives under way, this could eliminate a huge hurdle to innovation.

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