The Electric Car Revolution Is Taking Hold in This Tiny Country

Israel is taking a big step in moving towards a more electric future on its roads

Aug 10, 2019

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Electric cars and hybrids are the rage in Europe and China and are quickly gaining ground in the US. Norway has the highest amount of electric cars per capita, and other European countries are not far behind. Of course, electric vehicles need to be charged, so countries that are most committed to building charging stations have a large amount of EVs.

Israel has not fared well in either electric car sales or charging stations. Better Place that was launched by entrepreneur Shai Agassi, in October 2007, had big plans. He teamed up with Renault, and they planned to build 1,800 charging stations around the country. Six years ago, Better Place collapsed, leaving a small network of charging stations and electric vehicle owners behind.

Today, there are around 5,000 personal EVs – 1,000 are cars – on Israel's roads and approximately 70 electric busses. There are also 10,000 hybrids. With government plans to allow only imports of electric cars by 2030 – as a way to move Israel off dependence on fossil fuels – things have to change fast.

Two New Charging Station Initiatives

In May 2019, the Union Automotive Group – the Israeli importers of Toyotas – announced that a new subsidy called EVedge plans to build a nationwide network of charging stations, according to Haaretz. This network will serve all makes and models of electric cars.

Afcon Holdings also announced in May 2019 that it is launching a network from the country's north to south in shopping centers owned by the Big group. What's better than charging your car while you shop? This will add 20 locations with 50 stations by the end of 2019.

“A car owner can hook up his car when he comes to a mall or café, and pay by credit card or smartphone,” Afcon chairman Israel Raif told Haaretz

He stressed that before the 2030 deadline comes about, the infrastructure must be in place. “We’re trying to align the pace of the station rollout with the electric-car penetration into Israel,” Raif said. “But the deployment will precede the entry of the cars.”

EVedge CEO Ronen Yablon concurred and said, “the development of advanced, widely available, efficient and user-friendly recharging stations is critical for accelerating the entry of electric vehicles into Israel.”

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Government Tenders for EV Charging Stations 

The Israeli ministry of energy is planning to have at least 2,500 charging stations that will stretch from Kibbutz Dan – on the northern border— to Eilat – the southernmost point in the country – by the middle of 2020, according to Ynet. Last year, the ministry published a series of different tenders (a bidding process) for stations.

This was the first time that the government has offered government subsidies for municipalities and local councils to encourage the use of clean energy. The government had to step in because there was no motivation for importers to sell electric cars here without the necessary infrastructure.

The subsidy only covers slow charging stations that can charge two cars at a time, and each car will take eight hours to charge fully.

The final list of winning tenders was announced in early June 2019. Jerusalem will receive funds for 100 stations, Holon, near Tel Aviv, will receive 60, and Ashdod, in the south, will receive 36. Tel Aviv did not bid because the municipality does not want to be locked into the timetable.

A second tender for charging stations in public places like parking lots, entertainment centers, and shopping malls was won by nine different companies that will build a total of 812 sockets in 148 locations.

According to Ynet, the ministry is working on a third tender for fast-charging stations that will charge in half an hour.

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A Start-up Promises a 5-Minute Recharge for Electric Cars

StoreDot is looking to jumpstart the electric car revolution by charging EVs in just five minutes by creating a new type of battery. Today it takes 30 minutes to eight hours to fully charge batteries that have a range of up to 300 miles (482 kilometers).

The startup plans to replace the known technologies with new optimized fast-charging batteries. StoreDot’s batteries are built in the same form as regular electric batteries using lithium, the same basic material as other batteries, but the company replaces graphite with a mix of metalloids that include nanomaterials and proprietary organic compounds that are synthesized in their lab. According to StoreDot, this mixture is far less flammable and much more stable than batteries that use graphite.

Doron Meyersdorf, the company’s co-founder and CEO, told ISRAEL21c that heating granite is what made the batteries explode in Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and in some of Tesla's Model S cars. “It’s a known problem and the reason why all such batteries are charged slowly. And it’s also why our technology is garnering such interest,” said Meyersdorf.

In 2018, StoreDot received a $20 million investment from BP Ventures that plans on converting 18,000 of its gas stations into electric charging stations and EVE Energy, a Shenzhen-listed manufacturer of lithium batteries that plans to manufacture the  StoreDot battery in China.

The startup is working on obtaining funding to open its own battery manufacturing plant in the US.

“We need to build 100 or so giga-factories in the next several years. We don’t want to be in a situation where we have great technology but don’t have the partners or the capacity to meet the demand,” said Meyersdorf.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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