This interview was originally posted at CNET Australia. We have reposted it because the U.S. faces similar challenges to Australia in adopting electric-vehicle technology.
q&a We sat down with the CEO of Better Place Australia, Evan Thornley, to discuss how his company plans to make the electric car a reality in Australia.
Last year we reported on Better Place's deals with various national and state governments, such as Israel, Denmark, Hawaii, and California, to roll out infrastructure to assist in the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) from about 2011 onwards. This infrastructure will primarily consist of battery exchange stations, where drivers of Better Place compatible EVs can have their nearly depleted battery pack swapped out for a fully charged set, and EV charging points, located in homes as well as public places.
At the end of January, Evan Thornley was appointed as CEO of Better Place's Australian operations. Thornley was a founder of LookSmart and recently quit his seat in the Victorian State Parliament on the eve of his elevation to the ministry, raising the ire of the state's Liberal opposition. He and Guy Pross, the company's director of government affairs, sat down for a chat with CNET Australia about how Better Place plans to convert Australia's car fleet to electric vehicles.
CNET Australia: So why was Australia chosen?
Evan Thornley: Well, we think that this system works best for high-kilometer drivers. So the best way to prove that was to target a country which has plenty of those.
Could you please elaborate on how your system "works best for high-kilometer drivers?"
ET: Once the recharging infrastructure exists and the battery's sitting in the car, then, if you pay full commercial price for renewable energy, the energy costs of driving one kilometer down the road in an EV is about 1/7th the cost of driving that same kilometer using petrol.
Australia spends AU$20 billion to AU$30 billion a year on petrol, depending on the oil price and the currency. If we're able to convert the whole fleet over, then the renewable energy costs to power that fleet would be around AU$5 billion a year.
Who do we create the most value for the quickest then? The people who drive the most number of kilometers, because that's when we're displacing the largest amount of petrol. These drivers are the most attractive for us because, when you look at the lifetime cost of a car, much of it goes into the petrol tank not the vehicle itself. … Read more