The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is considering building Better Place's car recharging infrastructure at its bases to support a coming fleet of electric troop carriers, as well as civilian electric cars when they become available, Israel's Globes reports.
It's no big surprise. Israel was the first country in the world to commit to installing the California start-up's nationwide car charging network (not to mention the CEO of Palo Alto-based Better Place is Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, former Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF). But the news is still worth noting for a number of reasons.
First, the report underscores the global trend of major militaries embracing electric vehicles to break foreign fuel dependence. Second, the IDF is considered one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world. If its electric vehicles and charging infrastructure prove viable options with clear benefits, then the IDF could propel other governments and militaries to adopt them. That could help Palto Alto-based Better Place, which seeks to blanket the world with its electric recharge grids and define the global standard.
Third: The news is more proof that oil-poor Israel is aiming to be an electric car epicenter.
Exactly one year ago last month, Better Place announced that it would build the world's first electric recharge grid across Israel, with 500,000 charging spots and swap-out stations. Renault-Nissan would supply the cars. The Better Place goal? Some 100,000 all-electric vehicles by 2011.
In November 2008, Globes reported (sub. req'd) that the first shipment of ten Better Place cars, assembled in the US, were expected in Israel "soon," with another coming in January. About 10,000 charge spots, Better Place has said, will be installed in 2009 across the country. In December 2008, Mr. Kaplinsky unveiled the first ones -- 17 of them -- at an Israeli cinema.
Evidence of progress, yes, but not grand progress and skepticism in Israel remains. The nation is bracing for a recession, predicted to strike this year. And critics say electric car battery technology is still unproven for mainstream adoption -- even in tiny Israel -- falling short on battery capacity, safety, charging time and longevity.
Enter military bases.
As self-sufficient mini cities characterized by short commutes and low speed limits, bases would be an ideal place for an electric car pilot. In Israel, Better Place infrastructure would support future electric military jeeps, dune buggies and other vehicles, as well as electric cars owned by civilian residents. (The Better Place network of charging infrastructure is built on open standards that give consumers a wide range of choices when it comes to vehicle make and model.) That could kick-start adaptation on a larger scale -- moving to villages and cities in Israel, and maybe the world.
Militaries matter. And this story is worth keeping any eye one.
For its part, The United States military, the largest single fuel consumer in the world, grabbed headlines last month when it announced that it would lease and install 4,000 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) at numerous army bases worldwide. In the next six years, those giant electric golf carts together will result in 11.5 million gallons of fossil fuel saved for an estimated 115,000 fewer tons of CO2 emissions.
To support the NEVs, electric outlet stations will be installed at the various bases. Better Place's name didn't come up as a potential grid operator. And there's no evidence to suggest that a partnership with the US military is even plausible. Still, any major switch from the pump to the plug would make the world a "better place."