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Dec 152008

By John DeFore

When last we mentioned electric-car entrepreneur Shai Agassi, the former software wunderkind’s grand plans had attracted commitments from the government of Israel but had no traction in the States.

Things have changed. First he aligned with some like-minded entities in California. Last week, though, his Better Place venture won the support of an entire state: Hawaii.

Agassi’s company has signed a deal with the Hawaiian Electric company to work together on the kind of energy network (for recharging cars) and battery swapping spots (for “refills” of energy that won’t require time-consuming plug-ins) that will be required for the Better Place business model. In that model, customers will pay by the mile much like cell-phone customers pay per minute of airtime.

Agassi has told reporters that he continues to have faith in his model despite falling oil prices, but that he believes it has particular appeal for isolated economies like Hawaii’s, where transport costs keep prices higher.

If all goes well with permitting and infrastructure construction, Agassi intends to start introducing vehicles within the next 18 months and have them widely available by 2012.

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