Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ontario in the fast lane on the way to a "better place"?

Huge announcement on the electric vehicle front today for Ontario.

Better Place, a U.S. based venture company, has entered into an agreement with the Ontario government and Canadian green electricity producer, Bullfrog Power, with the objective of fast-tracking the introduction and adoption of electric vehicles on Ontario roads and highways.

Better Place, whose backers include Montreal's Stephen Bronfman already has projects in the works in Israel, Denmark, Hawaii and Australia.

The essentials of the agreement include substantial commitments on the part of the government to come up with a plan for:

* giving incentives for purchasing electric vehicles (evs)
* providing preferred access to roads for ev users
* enabling accelerated government fleet conversion to evs
* providing public education on the topic

Better Place meanwhile, will also work on the fast tracking plan, establish their head office for Canada in Ontario and set up a public education and demonstration center.

Bullfrog has wind turbines in operation in Ontario and will provide 100% emission-free power for the project.

The actual business model for the program is the disturbing part. What they are proposing is to go with the cell phone model, forcing people to "subscribe" to their service, rather than just simply buy power as they need it.

IMO no other mainstream business, with the possible exception of the equally slimy cable TV providers, has been shadier or less trustworthy than the cell phone industry. I can just imagine the monthly bill for the Better Place... a whole page of "creative" line items... "network charges", "roaming charges", surcharges for this and that, maybe a built in CAA type of thing where you pay for service insurance, rental charges for equipment and so forth. Whatever they come up with, I'm sure it will be extensive, expensive and very profitable for the investors.

Now, let's just make sure that:

1. It is not the only choice available
2. That it is possible to control your expenses according to your driving habits and preferences

Ontario produces more vehicles than any other jurisdiction in North America, refines more oil than any province in Canada, contains 1/3 of Canada's population and is not blessed with abundant clean electrical resources. So this agreement is something of a juggarnaut.

Gonna be fun to watch. The fast-tracking report is coming out in May...

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