[Read part 1 too!]
by Peter Dushenski @carenvy
Driving up to the cylindrical two-story Experience Center north of Tel Aviv, bordering a lifeless ocean of unsold French cars, we parked our Mazda5 next to a pair of electronic Renault Fluence ZEs. At a normal car dealership, we would’ve waltzed in unannounced only to be molested by a pimply salesman with an ill-fitting suit. Since this was the “Experience Center”, however, the Better Place website encouraged us to book a tour in advance despite not having any clue as to what such a tour might entail.
We were penciled in for 3:00pm that Friday but Israel’s road network had other ideas. We got so dazzlingly lost trying to find the damned place that we started to wonder if the Byzantines called really complex crap “Judean”. As such, we were a solid 45 minutes late. As we tardily strode into the airy building, we were found the reception desk, explained the situation, and were promptly signed up for a private tour at 4:00pm. With a few minutes to kill, we acquainted ourselves with the spotty (but delicious) cappuccino machine. Before we knew it, we had individualized name tags and the fun was set to begin!
By Peter Dushenski @carenvy
In the birthplace of monotheism – where the scriptures that formed the foundations of western culture tell of divine intervention and retribution – lays a truly heavenly assortment of desert flowers and blushing greenery, beautifying the once-lifeless landscape.
On our recent family trip to Israel, the vibrant flora was an ever-present reminder of the power of human will. Although Israel finds itself atop a Mediterranean desert, it’s lush and unexpectedly well shaded. It was only when we returned home to the bursting Canadian spring and the dense layers of Edmonton’s river valley succession that Israel’s precisely placed plantings looked so retrospectively sparse. Israel might have tall trees and dazzling flowers, but the majority of the country’s lawns seemed confined to the steep-as-a-double-black-diamond Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. That the country’s vegetation felt as natural as it at the time did speaks to the the desire of the Jewish people to bring as much of Old Europe to their new home as possible.
Had you visited Israel without visiting the tree-lined cities, and never seen the Bedouin-dotted patches of crusty rock that nestled between lemon and olive plantations, you’d never notice the unforgiving wasteland that lies beneath the Jewish civility. In the cities, thick, vine-covered trees shade popular streets, like Tel Aviv’s boutique-lined Dizengoff where my fiancée found her wedding dress. Between every building palm trees hide, boxed in though they are by graffiti and wrought iron window bars. If the past six decades had accomplished no more than vegetative abundance in the middle of the desert, dayenu. But there’s so much more.
There’s Israel’s automotive future. And perhaps ours as well.
[Read Part I first!]
by Peter Dushenski
We’ve now arrived at the impetus for this scathing two-part editorial, the magazine article nestled under my wrists this entire time! It’s the October 2011 Top Gear Magazine with Sam Philip reviewing the BAC Mono, a bizarrely perfect single-seat road car that seems to blend a KTM X-Bow with a Formula Ford car into a bangers-and-mash-flavoured high-impact smoothie. Except instead of being disgusting, it’s amazing. All of which got me thinking: How much does it cost to start-up a new car company and how many units do they have to sell to turn a profit?
Obviously, there would have to be some kind of curve or graph that would be able to clearly present this data graphically, but even just talking out a few points could give us an idea of what that graph might look like. This question is what immediately drew my mind to thoughts of Tesla and Fisker, the two most publicized start-ups in recent years, both of whom are promising much and delivering only heartache and woe to their investors. Since Tesla is publicly traded on the NASDAQ, and therefore has detailed financial statements readily available, let’s take a closer look at Elon Musk’s Palo Alto firm.
Tesla, meet the CarEnvy.ca Electron Microscope.
Optimism is infectious.
It feels good to hope. It lifts your mood. It straightens your back. It heals what ails. We hope our sports teams will win, that our politicians will change the world for the better, and that life has meaning. Ok, that’s perhaps a bit grandiose, but it’s hard not to let it sweep you away, especially when it really strikes a chord.
The automobile industry is the most publicly scrutinized way in which we consume oil. Sure, it’s also on our Greek salads, but that’s not what gets people in a huff. Gasoline pollutes. Pollution cause climate change. Climate change causes erratic weather that destroys ecosystems, devastates infrastructure, and displaces people from their homes. A little scrutiny is warranted. Understandably, governments, particularly European ones, are taking strong action in this vein to curb vehicle emissions, thereby increasing fuel economy and lessening our consumption of that gooey black
goodness evil. These new regulations are having a profound effect, particularly on the vociferous enthusiast community (like right here, except not here, oh who am I kidding!), as once blissfully intoxicating naturally aspirated engines are giving way to vacuum-cleaner-imitating turbocharged and supercharged ones. Forced induction isn’t inherently wrong, but it’s generally perceived to reduce the character and soul of a vehicle, basically robbing it of its enthusiast appeal.
If that trend weren’t enough to scare the bejeezus out of our enthusiast community, we might want to turn our attention to the 747 flying 30,000 feet over our heads as gasoline gets motherfucking digitized. Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place and speaker at last week’s 2011 APEC Transport/Energy Ministerial Meeting in San Francisco, brings us up to speed in his talk.
I listened to it mainly out of curiosity, maybe even out of fear for my beloved V8, but rather than walking away distraught, I was filled with a sense of unbridled optimism. And not only optimism, but also determinism. I’m really not one to believe in fate, or destiny, or even in anything after this life, but Agassi is so powerful that I fully believe that battery-swappable electric cars are an inevitable future. Now we just need to make electrons more fun…
Listen to it here, turn it up, and feel the optimism course through your entire body.
A video explaining the Better Place initiative is below.
Shai Agassi (left) is on a mission of tikkun olam, to make the world a better place. How is our vertically-challenged Israeli friend going to accomplish that? By teaming up his company, Project Better Place, with Renault, Nissan and hopefully a Canadian manufacturer to supply and produce EV cars. There are agreements in place in Hawaii, Israel, Australia, Japan, San Fransisco, and now the Ontario government to explore the viability of electric cars and the necessary infrastructure to support them in those areas.
Why should you, a genuine car enthusiast, care about pitiful little electric toys like these? Two reasons. Firstly, there may come a time when we drive electric cars to work and back but then use our much-adored petrol-powered cars on the weekends. Secondly, with cars like the Tesla Roadster being produced (albeit in very limited numbers), we know that electric cars can be sexy and fast. Follow the jump to see what Project Better Place has in mind for the future.