electric-car-mogul-agassi.jpgThe State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Electric Company on Tuesday became the second in the nation to commit to building an alternative transportation system based on electric vehicles and an “intelligent” network of tens of thousands of battery recharging stations.

The plan, the brainchild of the former Silicon Valley software executive Shai Agassi, and his company, Better Place L.L.C., will help fuel Hawaii’s drive to lead the nation in renewable energy use, create jobs locally, while also helping to secure its energy future.

(photo: L-R Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president… Thanks to Sun Star for sending the story!)

“Today’s announcement is a significant move towards our state gaining independence from foreign oil,” said Governor Linda Lingle. “This public-private partnership is exactly the type of green investment we have been working on as we continue to carry out our Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), moving toward the goal of 70 percent clean energy for the state.”

Better Place plans to begin permitting for the electric car network within the next year and begin introducing vehicles within 18 months, with mass-market availability of electric cars in 2012. Hawaii joins Israel, Denmark, Australia and California since Better Place was founded in October 2007, committed to deploying the world’s first electric car networks.

Hawaii spends up to $7 billion a year on oil imports and drivers pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation — accounting for nearly 20 percent of the state’s Green House Gases (GHG). Building the infrastructure for widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not only stimulate the local economy and reduce carbon emissions, but also provide a more affordable transportation option to Hawaii’s drivers.

“Hawaii, with its ready access to renewable energy resources like solar, wind, wave and geothermal, is the ideal location to serve as a blue print for the rest of the U.S. in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, growing our renewable energy portfolio and creating an infrastructure that will stabilize our economy,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place.

The collaboration includes Hawaiian Electric Companies that will provide the infrastructure and green energy needs to power Better Place’s network of public charging spots and battery swapping stations with renewable energy.

“Hawaiian Electric is proud to be the first utility in the United States to sign an agreement with Better Place,” said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. “It is clear that to reach the very progressive goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative will take changes not just in the way we make and use electricity, but in the way we move around our islands.

“The plan will provide immediate benefits to consumers and encourage the addition of more renewable energy resources to the grid. Because Better Place will manage when vehicles are recharged, they can provide a market for renewable energy output in off-peak hours when it might otherwise not be needed,” Alm said.

Launched with $200 million of venture funding in 2007, Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia and California – and now Hawaii – beginning in 2010.

Related GNN Story: Where Can I Buy an Electric Car in America?

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