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Israeli Entrepreneur Builds Vehicle Infrastructure in Australia

Israel, tiny and bereft of oil, has decided to embrace the electric car. Now, Australia has decided to do likewise!

The idea, said Shai Agassi, 40, the Israeli software entrepreneur who is CEO and Founder of Better Place, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the mobile phone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware — the car — and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a mobile phone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of petrol.

In January 2008, the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, announced their support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars and free Israeli of its dependency on oil for transport.

Shai Agassi rose to the number two spot at SAP worldwide. He resigned from this position in 2007 to pursue interests in alternative energy and climate change, founding a company called Better Place (having raised $200 million) focusing on a green transportation infrastructure based on electric cars as an alternative to the current fossil fuel technology. Renault Nissan will build the first purely electric cars.

On his recent trip to Melbourne, Shai Agassi announced agreements with AGL Energy and financial advisor Macquarie Capital Group to raise $1 billion to begin deploying an electric vehicle network in Australia powered by renewable energy.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said, “The Victorian Government supports any initiative that will have positive outcomes in reducing emissions in the transport sector and welcomes this innovative approach to help make broad adoption of electric cars in Australia possible.”

Better Place will use its scalable model, which Israel and Denmark have adopted, to build the electric vehicle network in Australia.

“As the world’s sixth largest country, our network build out in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size,” said Shai Agassi, CEO and Founder of Better Place. “We are investing in Australia’s economy and adding jobs while helping the country take a generational leap forward toward oil independence.”

The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce was specifically singled out by Agassi for having assisted Better Place establish itself in Australia by providing valuable introductions to senior business and government leaders.

“Our unique position in the Australian business community has enabled the Chamber to assist Better Place bring its innovative concept here in a speedy and targeted fashion by connecting them with key influencers,” said Anthony Hollis, CEO of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, New South Wales.

It is anticipated that the Better Place electric vehicle infrastructure will be initially deployed in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and, possibly, Canberra.