29: A Better Place? - Israel Story 29: A Better Place? - Israel Story
29: A Better Place?
Not that long ago, an Israeli vehicle was about to change the world. But it didn’t. In today's episode, we find out why the Better Place electric car generated such excitement and inspired such devotion, and why its ultimate demise was so devastating.
  • Transcript

In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk became household names, a thirty-nine-year-old Israeli tech entrepreneur by the name of Shai Agassi came out with an announcement that rattled the world: He was going to revolutionize transportation, make countries oil-free by 2020, and curb the effects of climate change. Agassi hoped to put millions and millions of drivers, all around the globe, behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car, with virtually unlimited range. And that, he told anyone who would listen, was going to make the world a “Better Place.”

On a hot day of early summer, Brian and Jody Blum of Jerusalem drove their electric car to the local Renault dealership. This seemingly uneventful errand was, in reality, deeply symbolic. It represented the end of a dream—a dream that people like Bill Clinton and Shimon Peres believed was going to usher in a new global era.

Brian Blum is a Jerusalem-based journalist and author whose new book, Totaled: The Billion Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, chronicles the unraveling of that dream.

IMG_7482[1] Switch station

(c) Brian Thomas


Brian interviewed for Israel Story (in car)

Into the Red

(c) Brian Thomas Better Place RFID tag and key fob

(c) Brian Thomas

The music in this episode includes original tracks composed and performed by David Peretz, as well as music by Blue Dot Sessions, Jason Shaw and Audionautix, Kevin MacLeod and Royal Free Sound, Bird Creek, Twin Musicom, Chris Zabriskie and Bensound. The final song, “Mechonit,” is by Mashina. The episode was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum. Thanks to Ruth Danon and Ronnie Wagner for music advice.

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