Better Place in talks with Ontario

I have a story in today’s Toronto Star about exploratory talks taking place between the Ontario government’s ministry of economic development and Better Place, the Shai Agassi venture that has electric-vehicle infrastructure projects on the go in Israel and Denmark. Sean Harrington, head of global development at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Better Place, said Ontario and the Toronto region specifically is a “good fit” for the Better Place model because of the high population density in the area — 5 million people within a 180-kilometre radius. He said talks are preliminary but that there’s already an effort underway to find a car manufacturer willing to participate in “Better Place Ontario” by locally manufacturing electric cars for such a project. Better Place officials are expected to visit Toronto again later in September to meet other potential stakeholders, including transmission giant Hydro One, staff from the Toronto mayor’s office, and green electricity retailer Bullfrog Power. (For a great profile of Agassi and Better Place, check out this Wired magazine article published this month)

Compared to Denmark and Israel, Ontario has lower fuel prices and incentives for purchasing energy-efficient vehicles. This makes the economic case for Better Place more difficult. Clearly, the Ontario government would have to create policies that provide generous consumer incentives for the purchase of electric cars. It will be interesting to see where these talks go, but certainly the Ontario government needs to come up with an ambitious strategy to re-energize the province’s struggling automotive sector. “This merits some serious, significant discussion,” said Sandra Pupatello, minister of economic development and trade, who told me she’s “fascinated” by the Better Place model. “But I can’t tell you where it’s going.”

5 thoughts on “Better Place in talks with Ontario”

  1. You would think that Montreal would be a better spot, considering the provincial government is more flexible with electric car policies, electricity is ~99% renewable energy, and the island of Montreal is densely populated.

  2. I’ll ask the same question I asked in my blog post today.

    Does this pending deal have anything to do with the refusal to allow Zenn Cars on the road? Was stopping zenn a perc or precondition for this development?

  3. “Compared to Denmark and Israel, Ontario has lower fuel prices and incentives for purchasing energy-efficient vehicles.”

    I would also assume that Ontario would have less openness to the idea as well than these two countries, though I hope to be proven wrong.


  4. The ZENN car company is already manufacturing vehicles. No process of meetings and commitees and thoughts of infrastructure need commence. Ontario told us all, that they had started that process with a delay – called a study, see tyler blog, Oct 10th 2005. I expect the ZENN Co. wants to make cars, make money, provide jobs, create even shareholders. Real assistance to Zenn getting to market is the HONEST effort I wish to see. Supporters of any electric car company should commute in their current gas powered cars at 45km/hr on inner city streets so as to remove as least one foolish arguement against the Zenn, which is at 40 km/hr it is too dangerously slow and the illegally speeding vehicles would endanger it’s occupants. Starting over with more meetings at the political level moves the effort of electric cars in Ont. back beyond 2005. Hey how is Zenn doing in Que.?

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