Israel is on schedule to inaugurate a revolutionary electric car grid with dozens of recharge stations and thousands of cars on the road by next year, the project's developers said Sunday.
The California-based company Better Place hopes Israel's model will lead a shift toward electric transportation worldwide.
Between 70 and 100 recharge stations will open across the country by 2011 to service a fleet of electric vehicles, the company announced at a news conference unveiling a visitor center north of Tel Aviv.
Beginning in September, the company will test hundreds of cars and install a preliminary infrastructure before the project's commercial launch.
When the grid is complete, drivers will be able to recharge their vehicles using plugs installed next to parking spaces. On longer trips, motorists can stop at stations where a machine can replace the car's lithium ion battery. The cars, developed with Renault-Nissan, have a range of about 100 miles (160 kilometers) before the battery must be replaced.
Better Place has said users will pay for a monthly package that will include the price of the car, the battery and use of the grid. But it has yet to announce how much all of this will cost, saying only that the price will be equal to or less than the price of a regular car.
'Solving problem for entire world'
The company, founded by Israel-American businessman Shai Agassi, a former top executive at software giant SAP AG, raised $350 million from an HSBC-led investor consortium last month, one of the largest clean-tech investments in history. The new financing values Better Place at $1.25 billion.
Speaking Sunday, Agassi said his goal was to help end global dependence on oil.
"Israel has taken on the problem (of oil dependency) and has decided independently to solve this for the entire world," he said.
The visitor center opened Sunday offers interactive tours, test drives of the electric car, and an automated station to get on the wait list to buy the new car. Agassi reported heavy interest in the vehicle, but gave no numbers.