In a move that thrilled Israeli opponents to foreign energy dependence as well as environmentalists across the country, 19 Israeli companies have signed cooperation agreements to test the suitability of electric cars for their company fleets in the first stage of the electric car program of Israeli venture-company Better Place.

Aiming to reduce global oil dependency and provide consumers with cleaner, sustainable personal transportation, Better Place employs swappable batteries, battery charging spots and battery exchange stations, and is aiming to operate its first electric car charging network in Israel and Denmark by 2011.

Israeli companies taking part in the test project represent Israeli high tech, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, finance, food, manufacturing and telecommunications industries.  Participants include Israel Corporation, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pelephone Communications, Partner Communications, Matrix IT, Direct Insurance- Financial Investments, Rafael  Advanced Defense Systems, Netafim, Keter Plastics, Orbotech, Jafora Tabori, Manpower Israel, SQlink, Nike Israel, and Glasshouse Technologies.

The first stage of development will include designing and installing recharging points for company parking lots and employee homes.

Better Place CEO Shai Agassi called the program "the tip of the iceberg of global demand," saying he believes there is a potential global market of 50 million cars.