December 29, 2012

Making the world a better place

We are the proud owners of an electric car. Not a hybrid, it is 100% electric. Better Place introduced electric cars to Israel about six months ago and we felt compelled to be a part of their innovative vision.

The car is a Renault Fluence sedan. I am no car maven, but when it comes to this vehicle, I can wax poetic.

We charge the car in our garage at an electrical post installed by Better Place.  And when I am ready to go, I turn the keys in the ignition and look for the green ‘Go’ sign on the dashboard. There is no sound as there is no engine! I place my foot on the accelerator, pull out of the driveway and pick up speed. The only noise I can hear are the tires padding atop on the road. I cruise along in silence.

Heading north to Tsfat, I get onto the highway. The car has great pick up and ease. It is as fast as any car on the road, it hugs the curves with stealth, and ahhhh, it is tranquilly quiet.

It is also sparkling clean as there is no tailpipe to excrete emissions into the air.

Oscar, our onboard computer, is always calculating how much charge we have left. It can also locate the nearest battery switching station and the GPS will direct us there. There are several dozen battery-changing stations in Israel now as well as plug-in posts in most towns.

The first few times we went to have the battery changed, I felt as if I were in a science fiction movie. Better yet, I felt as if I were in the futuristic, peaceful, energy saving, green Israel of my dreams. This was because our battery changing station was in an Arab town and we were looked after by an enthusiastic Arab employee who also bought into this vision. I love the idea of Arabs and Jews working towards something together, especially if it is something that can make the world a ‘better place.’

The Oscar ushers us off the road to a change station in the Galil. A Better Place employee stands ready, ipad in hand, and offers us a coffee.  He is there to help us with any questions about the switching process, but really has little else to do as the entire procedure is automated.

I pull up and onto a track similar that found in a car wash. I put the car into neutral and turn it off. Then we sit back as the car is taken along. It is hoisted up slightly and a robotic arm unscrews the battery and takes it out. Meanwhile the onboard Oscar gives us a playback step-by-step. Within minutes, a new battery is put in, bolted in place and the car is ready to go – with a 100% charge. Time elapsed? Six minutes.

As soon as the process is over, an electric arms lifts. I turn on the car and sail onto the highway. Cost? Nothing (save for the minimal electrical costs I pay monthly, much like my cell phone plan).

Better Place cars are new to the Israeli car scene. Within time, I hope many more Israelis will become forward thinking and jump on board. The cars are priced the same as a regular gas guzzler so there is no reason to say no, especially with the soaring gas prices here.

My electric car hummed at a red light the other day. The gas-guzzling car ahead of me had this bumper sticker: ‘My next car is going to be electric.’ I hope to float past many more electric cars on the road in the next year. If this program meets with success, it has the potential to revolutionize the world--and is yet another beautiful way for modern Israel to do tikkun olam.

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