The keys to the new green economy are fundamental changes in how people do everyday tasks. To change the way we eat, obtain energy, build, and travel is to change some long-standing characteristics of our most basic needs. With individuals and families taking it upon themselves to buy local and organic food, the necessary infrastructure, institutions, and farms have co-developed as well. Of course, the work on renewable energy generation and smart grid technology has been tremendous, and thanks to the stimulus package it has new life. LEED certifications and the new fields of ecological building and natural building have been coupled with concepts like smart growth and new urbanism to create sustainable buildings and communities.
Transportation, however, has seemingly been slow, at least slower than the other categories. Recently, transit, bicycling, and walking have progressed, partially due to the likes of smart growth and new urbanism. But in America, for better or worse, the car is still the dominant means of transportation. So two real changes need to be made: making alternative forms of transportation more popular, and making cars carbon neutral. For the latter, we have electric cars and Shai Agassi’s venture, Better Place.
One of the major problems with electric cars is infrastructure. We have gasoline stations, but we don’t have a place to recharge a car’s battery – until now. Shai Agassi is a green entrepreneur who started Better Place, an electric car infrastructure company. They build the electric car version of a gas station. His vision is to create stations where robots will change your car’s drained battery with a fully charged one, in less than one minute. Each station will cost about $500,000 and the company has contracts with the governments of Denmark, Australia, Israel, Canada, California, and Hawaii. So far, Renault-Nissan has agreed to produce electric vehicles with batteries that are compatible with Better Place technology.
This exciting venture presents a start in the fundamental change of transportation. Consumers were naturally worried about the electric car viability, and these stations provide a measure of security. This big step will make electric cars a marketable product, and hopefully a common reality. It takes green entrepreneurs to create these innovations. Shai Agassi was willing to work out the details and then, most importantly, coordinate diverse entities to make the vision work. Infrastructure shifts often require these feats of consensus building, and this action deserves our attention.