Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, is in talks with Shai Agassi and Project Better Place regarding the company's plan to create a mass-market infrastructure for electric cars. Mercedes' CEO Dieter Zetsche revealed the talks in a newspaper interview published in Germany earlier today. Zetsche also said that Mercedes-Benz plans to manufacture a model that runs on electricity in 2010.
In January 2008, Better Place announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Renault-Nissan to build an electric recharge grid in Israel. Under the agreement, Better Place will build the electric recharge grid, and Renault-Nissan will provide the electric vehicles. Renault-Nissan apparently does not have an exclusive right to produce electric vehicles for Better Place, and it will be interesting to see what develops with Mercedes.
Hawaii and San Francisco up next?
I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Ziva Patir, head of Better Place's international standardization efforts since her appointment was announced in April. Patir revealed that Better Place is near an agreement with the State of Hawaii. If the talks are successful, this would be another impressive accomplishment for Better Place, giving it a foothold the world's largest car market.
In an April appearance on a local radio show, Hawaii's Governor Linda Lingle said that the state was indeed in discussions with Project Better Place.
Furthermore, Earth2Tech reported in May that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom met with Better Place Israel CEO Moshe Kaplinsky and Chairman Idan Ofer while in Israel. Newsom reportedly offered to work with the company to build an electric recharge grid in San Francisco.
In Better Place's October 2007 white paper, "The Future of Transportation", Shai Agassi stated that to set the right conditions for the creation of a massive electric recharge grid in the United States, the federal government will need to increase taxes on cars, based on carbon emissions, and tax fuel to bring the price up to roughly $4.50 a gallon.
Even without federal intervention, however, gas prices have now reached a statewide average of $4.31 in Hawaii and $4.60 in California. We may have already reached the point where the company's business model will work in certain niche markets -- transportation islands like Hawaii, and densely populated, highly-trafficed urban areas such as San Francisco.
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