During his visit to Israel in July, Gov. Jon Corzine joins Better Place CEO Shai Agassi as they look under the hood of the electric car.
Photo by Tim Larsen/Governor’s Office
October 2, 2008
Michael Granoff of Tenafly recently brought his vision for the future to the State House in Trenton — a vision of sustainable transportation, global energy independence, and freedom from oil.
The vehicle for that vision is the electric plug-in car, a project of Better Place, a company based in Palo Alto, Calif., that was established last October by Israeli-American Shai Agassi.
Soon after Agassi revved up his company, earning headlines for his plan to create an electric-car network in Israel, Granoff left his small investment firm to join Better Place as head of oil independence policies.
This summer, while Gov. Jon Corzine was on his five-day trade mission to Israel, Granoff took him for a spin in Better Place’s prototype Renault-Nissan electric car. He also briefed the governor on the ways the car is about to take hold in Israel and Denmark. In both countries, Better Place has signed agreements to build networks of electric cars, with nationwide infrastructures of plug-in receptacles, charging stations, and battery-swapping stations.
Michael Granoff, speaking in Trenton, presented a plan to transform America’s transportation landscape through electric plug-in cars.
Photo by Marilyn Silverstein
On Sept. 22, Granoff was in the state capital at Corzine’s invitation, briefing leaders on the possibility of bringing the Better Place vision to New Jersey.
By 2009, Israel will have several hundred electric cars on the road, with an infrastructure of some 10,000 charging spots, Granoff told New Jersey Jewish News. And by 2010, the country will have 100 battery-changing stations and 1,000 or more electric cars on the road.
“Visiting Israel, you’ll begin to see our presence as soon as next year,” he said. The first target market for the cars will be the 30 percent of the population who drive 70 percent of the miles, he added.
“It’s that 30 percent we’re most interested in marketing to, because our mission is to…reduce the demand for oil,” said Granoff, who also serves as president of Kesher-The Community Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox shul on the border of Tenafly and Englewood.
Granoff described his plan to representatives of the governor’s office, the NJ Department of Transportation, the NJ Board of Public Utilities, the New Jersey-Israel Commission, and the NJ region of American Jewish Committee.
He described clean, zero-emission, five-passenger electric cars that can go as fast as 100 miles per hour and travel as far as 100 miles before needing to be recharged.
The cars are to be powered by lithium ion phosphate and lithium ion manganese batteries — batteries with a life of some 200,000 miles at 100 percent power and another 200,000 miles at 80 percent power, he said.
Better Place will market its cars according to the cell phone model, Granoff said. Customers will purchase their electric cars at a modest cost and then subscribe to a four-year plan of monthly mileage usage. He said that with rebates, the cars in Israel and Denmark are expected to cost little or nothing.
The electric car on the road in Israel.
“This is the car of the 21st century,” he said.
“I obviously would like to go to bat for my home state and make it happen here,” he added.
Granoff’s plan matches the agenda of the NJ-Israel Commission, said its executive director, Andrea Yonah.
“One of the objectives of the commission has been identifying strategies — partnerships — between New Jersey and Israel, specifically in the area of green and alternative energies,” Yonah said in an interview, “and this project represents that type of partnership.”
Pam Frank, a member of the energy committee of the Central New Jersey Chapter of AJC, noted that the organization has taken a leadership role in working with states on energy-independence initiatives.
“As a Jew, my heart swells with pride that Better Place is coming from Israel and leading by example — a light unto the nations,” said Frank, who also serves as director of marketing for the Flemington-based Sun Farm Ventures, a solar-energy development company.
Adam Zellner, Corzine’s director of policy, said he plans future discussions with Granoff and Better Place.
“I think New Jersey is probably positioned better than any other state” to consider the kind of transformation Better Place is offering.
“We’re very dense. We have a uniform construction code. And we’re very proactive,” Zellner said. “New Jersey is the kind of state that will actually go for these kinds of things. It’s very realistic for the future. One step at a time — but it’s very exciting.”
Nancy Becker of Princeton and Joseph LeVow Steinberg of Roseland, cochairs of AJC’s Advocacy Task Force, also expressed excitement about what they had just heard.
“I think it’s fascinating,” said Becker, a member of AJC’s Central NJ Chapter. “I also think New Jersey, because of its demographics and its geography, is in a terrific position to take advantage of this technology and be a leader.”
“It’s the future,” said Steinberg, a member of AJC’s Metropolitan Chapter. “One of the interests of AJC, of course, is our nationwide push for energy independence, which is not just an economic issue. It’s a geopolitical issue.”
Herb Horowitz of Princeton, president of AJC’s Central NJ Chapter, called the project “potentially a real solution to people’s concerns about how they can afford to drive in this day and age.”
“Our job now is grassroots — getting the word out to the public,” said AJC regional director Allyson Gall. “They should be thinking about a car like this as their second car.
“What a legacy: clean air, off of Arab oil. It’s a win-win.”