by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 29th 2007 1:34pm
When Shai Agassi left SAP earlier this year, he talked about how he was inspired to do something in the alternative energy space. He apparently didn't waste much time in moving forward. He's now raised $200 million to try to build electric charging stations for electric cars around the world. It appears that the working theory here is that one of the things that's held back the success of the electric car is the lack of more widespread infrastructure to support it. There are gas stations everywhere, but electric charging stations are still quite rare (though, there are some). Of course, some might argue that there really are electric charging stations everywhere: they're called outlets. The second part of the plan is apparently that the company will own the batteries and charge people a service fee or rental fee to use and charge them at the stations -- lowering the upfront cost to consumers of buying an electric car. No matter what, this is definitely a "big bet" type of operation, and when you think about it, you could even ask if $200 million is even close to enough to actually accomplish the goal (meaning that the company is likely going to have to raise a lot more money). However, a bigger question is whether or not it really is the lack of these stations that are holding back the electric car industry. If you believe it's a chicken and egg issue, perhaps Agassi is onto something by getting folks to bet on building a bunch of chickens. But if the problem is that the eggs don't work right yet, then it may be quite a long time before the chickens matter. It would be nice to see this succeed, but it's a timing play. If Agassi is right about the timing, then this could become a huge business. If not, this could become another Iridium, with billions of dollars spent on mis-timed infrastructure, eventually left to rot away or sold for pennies on the dollar.
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