Thomas Edison Meets Shai Agassi

In 1899, nine years before Henry Ford introduced the gasoline-powered Model T, Thomas Edison began work on a battery to power vehicles.

In 1899, nine years before Henry Ford introduced the gasoline-powered Model T, Thomas Edison began work on a battery to power vehicles. While there were electric cars available at the turn of the 20th century, the problem of batteries (they weighed a lot and didn’t provide a whole lot of range) was vexing, so the Wizard of Menlo Park sought a solution. It didn’t turn out well for Edison, so he went on to other endeavors.

The battery/weight/range/cost nexus continues to be an issue for EVs. So Edison might be delighted with an arrangement that was announced yesterday by GE and Better Place, a company that’s dedicated to providing an EV infrastructure. The two companies are undertaking a technology and financial partnership to help solve the EV issues.

They’re working together in four specific areas:

1. Standards-based technology development. While people generally take for granted such things as the diameter of a gas nozzle at a fuel pump and the like, things have to be worked out for EVs. So the two companies are assuring, for example, that GE’s fast-charging WattStation will not only be compatible, but will commonize billing.

2. Battery financing. GE is not only a company that makes things. It also has extensive financial services. It is going to provide financing for 10,000 batteries for consumers in Israel and Denmark, Better Place’s first two markets.

3. Joint fleet electrification. Because fleets tend to drive the same routes in a predictable pattern, and because they tend to put on plenty of miles, the two companies are working to create a network specifically for fleets to help the transition to EVs.

4. Consumer awareness. GE is going to be pulling this in to its “ecoimagination” campaign, so maybe viewers of 30 Rock or Meet the Press will learn a little something about EVs.

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Speaking to the agreement, Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, said, "Almost three years ago, Better Place identified the transformation from oil to electricity as the last massive ‘digitization’ of energy, and a significant economic opportunity globally. Our collaboration with GE is another significant step forward for Better Place as we seek to assemble a formidable ecosystem of industry leaders including Renault, HSBC and now GE that can help us scale our model globally.  Our team of partners is committed to accelerating the acceptance of electric cars as more affordable and more convenient alternative to our gasoline heritage.”

With GE getting in this space in a significant way, chances are better that Edison’s endeavors may be realized