Michael Granoff in bold strokes painted a vision of the future of world transport – one that will increasingly leave oil and gasoline fading in the rearview mirror.
Take an electric car of tomorrow, he told an audience in Kansas City last week, and it will have more in common with your multiple electronic gadgets than the car now slumbering in your garage.
“What this effectively is, is the digitization of energy,” Granoff, one of the leaders of the Israeli company, Better Place, said.
During a business trip to Tokyo last summer, my first stop was a Better Place’s experiment in downtown Tokyo, where a small group of electric taxis were charged and monitored: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N21rWkZu78 .
Granoff updated a group of ardent supporters on his company’s success in raising hundreds of millions of dollars in startup funds, and securing the support of Israel’s top leaders. The goal is to get Israel, Denmark and even regions of China free of their dependence on foreign oil for transport.
Bottom line, says the Better Place exec, is that in a few years – given the business plan his group is pursuing – it will be cheaper to own a new electric vehicle than a 4- or 5-year-old car that burns gas.
Even though the United States now spends in excess of $1 billion a day on imported oil, bringing electric vehicles to a critical mass will not be easy. “It is not easy to get big, bold things done in the US,” Granoff said.
But the trend lines are clear – and radical change is ahead. “The economics are inevitable,” Granoff said.
It was an impressive evening. The very next day, the University of Kansas convened a small group of thinkers on its Lawrence campus to daydream about “The American Dream – Smart Grid – Smart Home – Smart Car.”
Worth pondering is an observation of Chris Depcik, who works in smart car engineering at the University of Kansas. “Electricity is actually a fuel,” Depcik said.
Now think about that.
Con Edison, Exelon, Portland General Electric - are you ready, willing and eager to compete with BP and ExxonMobil?
And also think about what it says about the times we live in, when a Granoff of Better Place and a team of thought leaders at the University of Kansas hold – on back-to-back days in early May – provocative sessions to consider the disruptive power of electric transport.
Kansas is not Washington or New York. If these matters are being weighed seriously in conservative Kansas – a tidal wave certainly is speeding towards us.