Renault Electric Car Unveiled for Project Better Place
Project Better Place, the Silicon Valley-based startup with ambitious plans to overhaul the auto industry, unveiled the electric car at the center of it all on Sunday in Israel.
The four-dour compact sedan is being built by Renault (RNL.F) and powered by lithium-ion battery packs made in a partnership between Nissan Motor Co. (NISA.BE) and NEC Corp.
Founder and CEO of Project Better Place Shai Agassi said the Renault-Nissan commitment is estimated between $500 million and $1 billion.
The plan is to have a small demonstration fleet in Israel, where the company has strong governmental and public support, in 2009, followed by a full roll-out in 2010.
Project Better Place will build and operate up to 500,000 recharging ports for the vehicles as well as many battery-exchange stations, to overcome the relatively short operating range of the batteries--160 to 200 kilometers.
A123 Systems will also produce some of the batteries for the vehicles.
Better Place recently announced the location of a second market being launched in Denmark, where cooperation with utility DONG Energy will aim to power the batteries with renewable wind energy.
In Israel, Agassi said he hopes solar energy will ultimately be used to recharge vehicle batteries.
"If all of Israel travelled by electric cars, you would need to add 6% of electricity production," Agassi said.
He also said the company is in talks with other European nations to develop similar programs.
The initial $200 million investment in Better Place was led by holding company Israel Corp, and includes Morgan Stanley, venture capital firm Vantage Point and a group of private investors.