Today the government of Israel and Renault-Nissan announced their collaboration along the Better Place framework - creating the first three way partnership for an oil-independent country. I attach the speech I gave today, in English (the original version was in Hebrew),and will attach the other speeches as soon as I get them.
It is a great day! One that many people at Project Better Place worked on diligently for the last few months. It is a great day for our kids, and if we get replicated to many other contries, a great day for a cleaner, safer world.
Mr. Prime Minister; Mr. Ghosn; honorable guests. It is an honor to be here with you today.
It is not typical and a rather humbling moment for a founder of a small startup to share a stage with the prime minister of his own country - Ehud Olmert, and one of the legendary CEOs of our times – Carlos Ghosn.
It is not a typical for a government take a bold strategic decision and challenge the private sector to help it solve a problem of global magnitude as the prime minister and its President of Israel did.
But these are not typical times.
These are times where we are running out of oil in the ground and we are running out of air, The oil we burn harms the atmosphere that controls the climate of our the planet. We have reached times where in some parts of our world children cannot see the sky.
Finally, we are running out of our most precious commodity of all – we are running out of time.
A few years ago I started thinking about this problem: How can you run an entire country without depending on oil?
The problem, at first, seems too big, almost insurmountable. But the more you think about it, the more you understand – our way of living, our freedoms, our kids’ future depend on solving this problem using only science and technology we have in our hands today, because we don’t have time for a science experiment.
The future of transportation depends on our ability to find another source of energy, one that is sustainable, abundant and not polluting.
For hundreds of millions of years our planet was powered with energy coming from one source - the sun, in all of its energy forms - heat, wind, and waves. What the planet and its inhabitant did not consume got stored in a planetary battery made of “concentrated sun power” – oil, coal and gas. Our planet’s battery got charged over hundreds of millions of years, and yet we have consumed half of the world’s oil in only one century. In the process we got addicted to oil, polluted our cities and altered our planet’s climate.
Project Better Place solution framework looks to convert an entire country into electric cars, powered by batteries, that get their energy from green sustainable electricity sources, through a smart electric recharge grid that covers the entire country. If we can provide the drivers an enjoyable car, that costs less but drives better, a country can build a virtual oil field – one that works forever, but leaves no footprint on the environment. Such virtual oil field is more natural than the holes we have been digging into the earth to fuel our addiction to oil.
Mr Prime Minister, a year ago, when I shared this vision with you, you set ground rules that were very clear:
- Find the money to fund this vision, outside the government – as the state is not a venture capitalist and cannot fund such projects
- Find one of the world’s greatest car companies that will build this great electric car, and can build it in mass market scale.
You said if I could do those two things, than I would have your support and I could spend the money in Israel. I thank you for challenging me. Your have brought us all to this moment and in fact have created a model of public-private partnership that I believe the rest of world will follow.
I also now know that I need to be more careful what I ask for. I am not sure if I am wiser, but I am definitely older after this year.
Mr. Prime Minister, I am glad to tell you that I found the capital required to fund this vision into reality. The money will be invested by an international collection of investors, led aptly by a company called Israel Corporation – these are all investors that share the vision and understand the opportunity. Where other saw a problem too big to solve they see an opportunity to move forward one of this century’s most significant economic opportunities. We do not ask for money from the state, we are investing in this country. I am also glad to tell you that I found a great car company – Renault-Nissan – which is willing to build great electric cars for our people. I found out over the last year in that Renault truly believes in this shared vision, and its people, in particular Carlos Ghosn and Patrick Pelata will work to deliver on their promise to us.
I also want to tell everyone that your leadership and the support of your government has been unwavering - your government, starting with your own office’s general manager, Ra’anan Dinur, the ministry of finance, trade, infrastructure, transportation, environment, every branch of government took cue from your personal leadership working endless hours to make sure we have the right policy in Israel to make this vision into reality.
I was inspired to take on this mission by two presidents, standing for the two countries where I am a citizen. First, President Kennedy who declared in 1961, despite overwhelming skepticism among the public and the experts, that the US would put a man on the moon within the decade, “not because it is easy but because it hard.”
A year ago, I started this journey in the office of Israel’s current President, Shimon Peres, who asked me after only two weeks of working with me on this framework “What could be more important than solving this for your country and the world?”. His simple question inspired me to leave my job, my career and take on this mission. He has been an ongoing mentor in this project throughout the entire last year, and is my personal inspiration for what the will of one man can do for this country of ours.
He is an inspiration to me, to Israel and to the world because he has shown that one individual can make possible what few think is possible.
But most importantly, I am inspired in this by my two boys. I think about the world that they will inherit from us. And I worry. If we pass to them our addiction to oil, we will make them pay for our sins. If we pass to them an unlivable planet, we have sinned them. The Prophet Jeremiah says that “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.” let this proverb not happen in our generation.
Today I stand encouraged. I am encouraged by the leadership of a government that would stare challenge in the face and see opportunity. Mr. Prime Minister, you have encouraged me in this from the beginning, and your government has acted wisely by setting the right policies.
Mr. Ghosn, you have shown great leadership in industry, and you and your organization have recognized from the outset that we as a global village are facing problems which cannot be swept under the rug, but that need to be confronted. As sure as we stand here today, we know that other automakers and infrastructure companies that will follow your lead. It will be a lasting tribute to you and your company that you were the ones to show the way.
Ladies and gentlemen, Project Better Place is now ready to invest the money and start the journey towards a new transportation system for Israel. You have set the challenge and we are willing and ready to respond together with many companies in Israel, such as the Israel Electric Company and many industrial companies that will enjoy the benefits of this nascent industry starting in this country.
Finally, Mr Prime Minister. Let me promise you that the vision I shared with you one year ago is no longer an unachievable dream. There are no big scientific breakthroughs that need to occur. All we need is the will to integrate the systems we have and drive this national project to success. And the leadership that you witness here today – government leadership, corporate leadership – that indicates that the will of which I speak is abundantly present. And so starts the defining project for the fourth generation of Israel, we will turn the dream of independence from oil into a reality, and create a brighter future for all of our children.