Project Better Place comes to CaliforniaCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed joined Better Place CEO Shai Agassi in announcing a plan for a sustainable transportation model for California.

Shai Agassi founded Better Place in October of 2007 with $200 million in venture capital. The vision of Better Place is to reduce global dependency on oil by creating a market-based transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles and renewable energy.

Within the first six months of its founding, Better Place forged cooperative agreements  with business and government in Israel and Denmark, most recently announcing a deal to bring Better Place to Australia. And with today’s announcement the electric car infrastructure model is set to come to California, starting in the San Francisco Bay Area.

How it works

Better Place deployment map for CaliforniaThe Better Place model is designed as a subscription-based transportation service. Based on electric cars manufactured by Renault-Nissan, the idea works around three essential components:

  • Charging statons designed to keep batteries adaquately charged to supply a minimum 100 mile range.
  • Battery switching stations for longer distance  trips. Drivers pull into the stations and have their batteries swapped or quick-charged in the time it now takes to fill a gas tank.
  • Specialized software to streamline and automate the process.

Through the use of plug-in electric vehicles, the Better Place model will also help California meet its renewable energy goals by helping balance peak and off-peak loads and providing a solution for renewable energy storage.

Agassi's Better Place California will involve a first-of-its-kind partnership between government, the auto industry, and Silicon Valley innovation. Preparation for the network will start in January of 2009, with a nine-step policy plan. The main objectives of the plan were set forth in a press statement released earlier today that include:

  • Expedited permitting and installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging outlets throughout the Bay Area
  • Financial incentives for employers and parking facilities to install EV charging systems.
  • Standards established across the region that let us build a united network.
  • Government programs that promote the purchase of EVs, as well as the installation of EV charging systems.
  • Link EV programs and infrastructure to regional transit and air quality programs.
  • Establish aggressive pooled-purchase orders for EVs in municipal, state government and private sector fleets and future commitment of purchasing preference for EV vehicles.
  • Expedited permitting and approval for facilities that provide extended-range driving capability for EVs in the region through battery exchange locations or fast-charging.
  • Identify and secure suitable standard (110V) electric outlets for charging low voltage EVs in every government building in 2009.
  • Identify roll-out plan for placement of 220V EV charging equipment throughout each city including city parking lots and curbside parking.

Mass marketing of the electric vehicles is expected to begin by 2012.

Agassi sees the Better Place idea as one encompassing four pillars that work together toward sustainability:

  • People
  • Plant
  • Prosperity
  • Plug

Agassi believes that creating a transportation model integrating these four pillars is the best path toward a profitable and sustainable future free from a dependence on oil. California now stands poised to pursue that idea and make Better Place a model that Agassi hopes will move across the country.

Image Credits: Project Better Place,