Monday, January 21, 2008

Israel Is Set to Promote the Use of Electric Cars

Israel Is Set to Promote the Use of Electric Cars

By Steven Erlanger
January 21, 2008

JERUSALEM - Israel, tiny and bereft of oil, has decided to embrace the electric car. On Monday, the Israeli government will announce its support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars, embracing a joint venture between an American-Israeli entrepreneur and Renault and its partner, Nissan Motor Company.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the active support of President Shimon Peres, intends to make Israel a laboratory to test the practicality of an environmentally clean electric car. The state will offer tax incentives to purchasers, and the new company, with a $200 million investment to start, will begin construction of facilities to recharge the cars and replace empty batteries quickly.

The idea, said Shai Agassi, 39, the software entrepreneur behind the new company, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the cellphone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware - the car - and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a cellphone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of gasoline.

Mr. Agassi and his investors are convinced that the cost of running such a car will be significantly cheaper than a model using gasoline (currently $6.28 a gallon here.)

“With $100 a barrel oil, we’ve crossed a historic threshold where electricity and batteries provide a cheaper alternative for consumers,” Mr. Agassi said. “You buy a car to go an infinite distance, and we need to create the same feeling for an electric car - that you can fill it up when you stop or sleep and go an infinite distance.”

Mr. Agassi’s company, Project Better Place of Palo Alto, Calif., will provide the lithium-ion batteries, which will be able to go 124 miles per charge, and the infrastructure necessary to keep the cars going - whether parking meter-like plugs on city streets or service stations along highways, where, in a structure like a car wash, exhausted batteries will be removed and fresh ones inserted.

Renault and Nissan will provide the cars. The chairman of both companies, Carlos Ghosn, is scheduled to attend the announcements on Monday. Other companies are developing electric cars, like the Tesla and Chevrolet Volt, but the project here is a major step for Renault, which clearly believes that there is a commercial future in electric cars.

Israel, where the round-trip commute between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is only 75 miles, is considered a good place to test the idea, which Mr. Agassi, Renault and Nissan hope to copy in small countries like Denmark and crowded cities like London, Paris, Singapore and
New York. London, which has a congestion area tax for cars, lets electric cars enter downtown and park free.

Project Better Place’s major investor, Idan Ofer, 52, has put up $100 million for the project and is its board chairman. He will remain chairman of Israel Corporation Ltd., a major owner and operator of shipping companies and refineries. “What’s driving me is a much wider outlook than Israel,” Mr. Ofer said. “If it were just Israel, I’d be cannibalizing my refinery business. I’m not so concerned about the refineries, but building a world-class company. If Israel will ever produce a Nokia, it will be this.”

Mr. Ofer has his eye on China, with its increasing car penetration, oil consumption and environmental pollution, where he has interest from a Chinese car company, Chery, for a similar joint venture.

Renault will offer a small number of electric models of existing vehicles, like the Megane sedan, at prices roughly comparable to gasoline models. The batteries will come from Mr. Agassi.
The tax breaks for “clean” electric vehicles, which Israel promises to keep until at least 2015, will make the cars cheaper to consumers than gasoline-engine cars. “You’ll be able to get a nice, high-end car at a price roughly half that of the gasoline model today,” Mr. Agassi said.

He contends that operating expenses will be half of those for gasoline-driven vehicles, especially in Europe and Israel, where gasoline taxes are high. The company, and the consumers who
use it, will normally recharge their batteries at night, when the electricity is cheapest, and they expect the batteries to have a life of 7,000 charges, though Mr. Agassi says he is counting on
only 1,500 charges, which is roughly 150,000 miles, the life of the average car.

“Because the price of gasoline fluctuates so much during the life of a car, it’s hard to predict the cost basis for driving,” Mr. Agassi said. “But electricity fluctuates less, and you can buy it in advance, so I can give you a guaranteed price per mile, cheaper than the price of gas today.”

Mr. Agassi predicts that a few thousand electric cars will be on Israeli roads in 2009 and 100,000 by the end of 2010; Israel has two million cars on the road, and about 10 percent are replaced each year.

Mr. Agassi suggested this model for the electric car - concentrating on infrastructure rather than on car production - at a 2006 meeting of the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution, which Mr. Peres attended. He was enthralled by the idea.

Mr. Peres, who is sometimes dismissed as a dreamer by more cynical Israelis, has in the past embraced and helped to develop some successful notions - like Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He is a strong believer in Israel’s mission to better the world, he says, and not simply sell arms to it. Israel is the 11th-largest arms exporter, as measured by dollar sales, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Mr. Peres, who knew Mr. Agassi’s father, said in an interview that after hearing Shai Agassi speak: “I called him in and said, ‘Shai, now what?’ I said that now is the time for him to implement his idea, and I spoke to our prime minister and other officials and convinced them that this is a great opportunity.”

“Oil is becoming the greatest problem of our time,” Mr. Peres said in an interview in his office. Not only does it pollute, but “it also supports terror and violence from Venezuela to Iran.”

“Israel can’t become a major industrial country, but it can become a daring world laboratory and a pilot plant for new ideas, like the electric car,” he said.

Mr. Peres sees this project as part of his “green vision” for Israel, arguing that what the nation may lose in tax revenue it will save in oil. He also supports a larger investment in solar power, saying that “the Saudis don’t control the sun.”

Mr. Ofer wants profits, but also thinks the project will help the environment, especially in developing countries. “China is on a very dangerous march from bicycles to cars without any notion of what they’re doing to this planet in terms of air,” he said.

And in Mumbai, he said, “you can’t even see the sky.”

James D. Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president, is a modest investor in the project.

“Israel is a perfect test tube” for the electric car, he said. “The beauty of this is that you have a real place where you can get real human reactions. In Israel they can control the externalities and give it a chance to flourish or fail. It needs to be tested, and Agassi is to be commended for testing it and the Israeli government for trying it.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Israeli Educational Stamps Posted Online

Hi Everyone!

I scanned and posted on my website the new Israeli stamps that were issued in December 2007.

I included the stamp itself, the first day cover, and an English and a Hebrew flyer about the stamp.

- Noah's Ark
- Hula Nature Reserve
- Rabbi Itzhak Kaduri
- Gestures of Family Love
- Cinemas in Eretz-Israel
- Medicinal Herbs and Spices

The new stamps are located at:

If you do not see the December 2007 section on the page, hold the control key and press the F5 key to refresh your browser.

Have a good day,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Uploaded New Learn Hebrew Video to TeacherTube and YouTube

Hi Everyone!

I just uploaded a new Learn Hebrew video to YouTube and TeacherTube. The topic of the new video is Reading and Writing.

The YouTube address is:

The TeacherTube address is:

The list of previous uploaded videos is located at:

Enjoy the videos!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tu B'Shvat (The New Year for Trees) on the J Site and 48 hotsites

Hi Everyone!

Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for Trees, falls on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, January 22 this year (5768 / 2008). This Jewish mini-holiday is of major importance to our appreciation of Nature and our relationship to it.

The J Site - Jewish Education and Entertainment

has several entertaining features to celebrate Tu B'Shvat:
Jewish Trivia Quiz: Tu B'Shvat
Which fruit is used to make wine ?
When did Kabbalists originate the Tu B'shvat Seder ?
How many glasses of wine are drunk at the Tu B'Shvat seder ?
What branch of a tree did the dove bring back after the flood ?
How many days does the Hebrew month of Shvat have ?
What is associated with both Chanukah and Tu B'Shvat ?
In Israel, what happens to trees starting on the 15th of Shvat ?
Since 1901, how many trees has the Jewish National Fund
planted in Israel ?
According to the Torah, which fruits did the spies bring to the
children of Israel in the wilderness ?

The above questions are examples from the multiple choice Flash quiz. There are two levels of questions, two timer settings. Both kids and adults will find it enjoyable.

Tu B'Shvat Clipart

Whether you need a picture for your child's class project, a graphic for your synagogue, Hillel or JCC Tu B'Shvat announcement, the Jewish Clipart Database has the pictures
for you. You can copy, save and print the graphics in three different sizes.

Multilingual Word Search Game: Tu B'Shvat

Enter the Multilingual Word Search game and choose the language you would like to play in: English, Hebrew or Russian. There is an easy mode for the kids and a harder mode for us big kids. Each game is randomly generated. You can even print out a blank game (and the solution page) for offline playing.

Hebrew Hangman - Tu B'Shvat

It's the classic Hangman game recreated in an online Flash version. If you expect your simple "hang the man by the rope" drawing then you are in for a surprise.

My Hebrew Song Book

Tu B'Shvat Hebrew songs (with vowels) for viewing and printing. All songs are in graphic format so you do not need Hebrew installed to view or print them.

The J site has something for everyone, but if that is not enough, I posted on my website 48 links about Tu B'Shvat, from history and customs to graphics and recipes. Site languages include English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and German

The web address is:

Please forward this message to relatives and friends, so they may benefit from these holiday resources.