Electric-Car Factory in Israel Discussed at Davos

At the just-ended World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Shimon Peres held informal talks about building an electric-car factory in Israel with representatives of Toyota and Renault.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 9:13 AM

The idea was originally that of Shai Agassi, President of Germany's SAP, the world's largest business software company. Agassi, a Raanana native who was chosen in 2003 by TIME/CNN as its #1 Global Business Influential, shared the idea with Peres.

Israel's Vice Premier told the car companies that the government would be willing to provide grants and tax benefits for the construction of such factories. Renault apparently showed significant interest in the idea.

Peres said that battery-operated cars manufactured in Israel could supply Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, thus guaranteeing its viability.

The main challenge of the project would be finding a way to cheaply manufacture an electric battery with which to start the car. Agassi expressed optimism that Israeli research and development teams could produce solutions, and the knowledge could help in building similar factories elsewhere.

Israel's long-term interest is to reduce its dependency on oil. To this end, the government is also considering encouraging Israelis to replace their gas-powered cars with electric ones. Subsidies would be provided for the purpose.

Gil Melamed, Maariv's automobile commentator, explains that Israel cannot realistically consider manufacturing cars, but rather batteries that would power the electric vehicles. "What prevents electric cars from becoming the perfect solution to the problems of air pollution and the dependence on fuel," Melamed writes, "is the lack of a good enough technology for the storing of electric energy. The batteries that currently exist do not last long enough before needing to be recharged, which itself takes too long... If Israel invests in developing battery technology and production of advanced batteries, we can definitely become an important player in the car industry of the future."