Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

Greening the World

How Jewish entrepreneurs are helping the green movement

By: Yosef Tastassa

Published: January 24th, 2011 in Business » World

Greening the World

Global warming

With the amount of attention going “green” has received, one would expect that there would be more advancement in this sector. Houses are being built green, unused rooftop real estate is being used for energy production, and “sustainable apparel” is the hot catchphrase in fashion. However, cars, the one industry that truly needs to go green, is still lagging behind. But that’s about to change, thanks to some brilliant Jewish entrepreneurs.

Electric cars have been around since the mid 19th century. Back then, electricity was the preferred method of propulsion. However, gasoline companies got involved and we all know the end result. Back in the early 90s, GM had flirted with the electric car before shutting down production. Today, there are two choices for driving green: hybrid and electric. Hybrid is the most common choice but offers the owner little in exchange for the added expense of going hybrid, and isn’t fully “green”. Electric is the greenest but isn’t available on large scale and is still too expensive as a common solution.

The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of our vehicles still need petrol as an energy source to run the engines. And as we all know the combustion of this precious liquid causes the greenhouse effect which is responsible for 2010 being the hottest year ever recorded since such records were kept in the late 19th century.

The already here solution – Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors is a Silicon Valley-based electric car manufacturer whose lead investor, and CEO, Elon Musk. Musk, a South-African-Canadian Jew, was the co-founder of PayPal, which he later sold for $1.5 billion in stock to eBay. Musk owned 11.7% of PayPal prior to the sale.

Telsa Motors has quickly become the darling of the electric car industry. After a shaky start that saw the company reach a near financial collapse, Tesla receive a US$465 million loan from the Unites States Department of Energy in June 2009.

This loan has been used to support engineering and production of their Model S sedan, their lowest price model yet at $57,400 before state/province deductions. With the car expected to begin deliveries to customers in 2012, Tesla has already taken over 3,000 reservations for the Model S in North America and Europe.

The Model S is widely seen as the first affordable, high-end, electric car. The car’s body is very reminiscent of the Maserati Quattroporte, and looks truly beautiful. Tesla will be providing three different options for battery packs 160 mi (260 km), 230 mi (370 km) and 300 mi (480 km) per charge, which can be recharged using any electrical socket.

Tesla has also confirmed that they are working on an all-electric SUV based on the Model S platform. The car, called the Model X, will be unveiled later this year. There is also a more “mainstream” model in the works which will be priced at under $30,000 and will be available in about four years.

Tesla has already released their all electric Roadster model but the based price starts at $109,000, far out of reach of most customers.

Aside from their own cars, Tesla provides their technologies to Toyota, Daimler, Mercedes and other car manufacturers. Tesla is recognized as the leader in electric car technology, and a champion of the industry.

The almost here solution – Better Place

Better Place is an Israeli company that was founded by Shai Agassi. Agassi's main idea is to replace the gasoline cars with electrical cars and to replace the petrol stations with batter charging/replacing stations.

If your car is electrical, you will not have to fuel it anymore. Instead you’ll either charge it at home, at the office or wherever else you can find an electric plug close enough to reach your car.

Another suggested solution is that the vehicle's owner will not purchase, but lease the battery for economic, safety and comfort reasons. This will keep the cost of the car down, since electric batteries are one of the most expensive components of the car.

Once the battery is about to fully discharge, the driver will visit the Electric Station where you’ll be able to replace the discharged battery with a fully charged one for a fraction of the price of fuel. The replacement will be done by robotics and will take less than a minute.

Agassi, voted one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people, is considered a pioneer and a prophet in this industry. His promise is to have Israel be fully electric by 2020. This means that Electric Stations will be available throughout the country, and electric cars will be affordable enough for everyone to switch over.

Israel is actually the perfect test country for such an ambitious project. The size of the country is a huge advantage for Agassi’s vision, as cars should be able to drive from one side of the country to the other on one charge, and the population of 8 million means that the project can be financially viable.

Better Place has also signed agreements with Australia, China, Denmark, Japan, the U.S. and Canada for their charging stations. The Province of Ontario will be the first province in Canada to introduce these charging stations.

Innowattech – Another Israeli creativity

Innowattech – Innovation –Watt – Technology, an Israeli based company founded by Prof. Haim Abramovich, from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, has developed a mechanism that converts the wasted energy from driving into electricity. Using panels underneath the road, Innowattech can harvest the energy and convert it into green electricity.

Innowattech claims that using their technology, a one km road can create enough electricity to power 200 houses. Their technology can also be used on railways and sidewalks, thereby converting the energy of passing trains and pedestrians into green electricity.

“The good thing for us is that our system does not require space,” says Abramovich. “Like other renewable energy projects, such as solar energy, large amounts of space are required. We can produce energy where it is needed, and won’t need to use wires to commute the energy.”

The food chain McDonalds, is apparently interested in Innowattech’s technology, and what it can do for their brand. Having people create energy while standing in line waiting for a Big Mac is a great gimmick. “I think people will start jumping and dancing knowing that by doing so they’ll be creating more energy,” said Abramovich. “Really!”

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