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Hybrid Cars are like Mermaids: Carlos Ghosn

Thu, 29 Oct 2009

A Hybrid is like a Mermaid.

I can’t say it’s an analogy we’d ever considered before. But the quote that “A hybrid is like a mermaid: if you want a fish, you get a woman; if you want a woman, you get a fish.” is attributed to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO. And it does encapsulate our feelings on most hybrids.

In what context was a quote like this ever made? Apparently it was during a conversation with former Israeli President Shimon Peres and Shai Agassi, former SAP Exec and head of Better Place, an innovative Israeli company developing a new direction in electric cars in collaboration with Nissan.

The Israeli Prime Minister had tasked Peres and Agassi to find a top 5 car maker who would take on board Agassi’s plans for a new direction in electric car manufacture. Peres was hooked by Agassi’s plans and got involved to make the contacts to get the project off the ground.

So what was the plan? Simple, really. Agassi argued that there was no need to supply electric cars with batteries. Much better to organise things from the ground up. First, generate an infrastructure that could cope with the demand for electricity – a ‘Smart Grid’. Second, install charging points in homes and streets. Thirdly, implement sophisticated ‘Battery Swap’ stations where drivers could pull in and swap batteries in the time it takes to fill a petrol tank.

Why Israel? Well, for obvious reasons Israel has a huge aversion to buying oil. It is also a small nation – its population is no greater than London – but highly innovative. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

So the plan was hatched and Better Place is working on the infrastructure. They are doing this in Israel, but also in Denmark, Australia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Hawaii, Ontario and Japan. The battery swap system is little different to pulling in to a car wash. The same technology that’s used to swap missiles on ‘planes is utilised to swap batteries in minutes. Local driving can utilise recharged batteries from the grid, but on longer journeys you can just pull in to a battery-swap station and you’re off again.

This is the most logical and integrated implementation of electric cars we’ve come across. It answers our three main gripes with electric cars – the overload on the grid, the range and the inability to top-up when needed – and suddenly, with enough investment, makes electric cars a viable proposition.

You can read more on this in a lengthy article on Media ite. Interesting stuff.

By Cars UK