We almost kicked the oil habit

This week I attended the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Jerusalem. All told I will have driven three times from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and back or around 500 km. Earlier this year and last I attended the President’s Conference at the same venue in Jerusalem.

The difference? this week I had to use a diesel engined car and burn more than 50 litters of fuel, spewing poisonous gasses into the beautiful forests and the faces of children in Jerusalem to do it. The previous two trips were completed in a car that burned nothing on the road.

Today in Tel Aviv a farce conference was held purporting to discuss alternatives to oil. The Prime Minister even spoke this evening. Well we had the best alternative in the world until May and then we lost it.

Speaking to Ha’aretz for the first time in public since the collapse in May, one of the founding investors of Better Place, Mike Granoff said:

The government of Israel and the prime minister have repeated and boldly identified oil dependence as a problem they want to address and solve. But every other government in the world and all the automakers and experts have reached a completely different conclusion than the government of Israel. Their conclusion is that encouraging electric cars is the best way to reduce oil dependence, and they’re adopting increasingly aggressive policies to promote this objective.”

Speaking about tonight’s conference, Ha’aretz reports of Granoff:

He was “astonished,” he said, when he learned that the Prime Minister’s Office was co-hosting an international conference with the Bloomberg news organization this week on alternative energy sources. “They’re talking there about how Israel can reduce its reliance on oil by 60 percent by 2025 with hardly a mention of electrification.”

Granoff does not argue (as neither do I) that the Government of Israel is responsible for the failure of Better Place. But I certainly agree with him that the country has squandered a huge gift since the collapse.

Once bankruptcy was declared, there could be no question that even non-financial government help would be going to rich shareholders. It would be going to clean up the air we all share and maintain Israel’s lead in electrification of transport.

Instead an incompetent process has ensued seeing the company sold twice to parties who could not pay for it. Vague promises from politicians to help which might have secured a viable running company never materialised. In fact huge blocks to the uptake of electric cars still remained.

Today in court it appeared that the unsold stock of 350 cars is to even be sold out of Israel! The fate of one of the largest networks of public charging infrastructure in the world, is still unsure with further court debate later this week.

I asked Mike for further comment and he sent me this, which seems appropriate to close with:

“It should be clear that I no longer have any pecuniary interest in the future of electric cars in Israel.  And after the outcome we had, by all rights I should wash my hands of it. But I’m still a Zionist and I still believe there will be a strong correlation between the countries that break the oil monopoly first and those that achieve the greatest economic and national security.  And in the 8 years since I have been a vocal advocate for electrification, I have yet to find a convincing argument that it is worth doing anything else to achieve that end.”


“Better Place did not always encourage partnership and cheerleaders, and that’s too bad.  But this government, committed as it says it is to the goal of breaking oil’s dominance, should have recognized the ability to leverage billions of shekels of private investment — even if they didn’t think it was the holy grail.”


“If you build a condo in Oregon, you are mandated to include EV charge spots.  If you live in a condo in Ramat Aviv and want an EV, you better hope you can convince ALL your neighbors to let you install one yourself — or you’re out of luck.  If you park a gasoline car in front of a charge point in Tel Aviv – well, that’s just fine, don’t expect a consequence.”

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.