Former SAP Exec Emerges to Deploy Grid for Electric Cars

When Shai Agassi, President of the Product- Technology Group in SAP left the software giant this March, his parting line “to pursue interests in alternative energy and climate change” could very well be viewed as a fashionable update to the old cliche of “leaving to pursue other interests and to spend more time with family”.

But in hindsight it’s obvious Shai knew exactly what he wanted to do next, as laid out in his blog post on Alternative Transportation within days after his departure:

…electric vehicles will become a reality within a short time frame, and will be cheaper to operate within a short time…

The consumer needs to feel comfortable driving an electric car with a ubiquitous charging infrastructure…

The grid needs to support the new load from this moving electrical appliance…

He then goes on defining his future role:

If you followed the history of the introduction of electricity through the first appliance – the electric light bulb – you know that there were three main players in the story: Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse…

…Tesla invented most of the essentials for the common grid we know and love today. The guy who deployed it in mass scale though was Westinghouse, which is the role we need in this new electric revolution – the business guy who deploys with the highest efficiency and best business approach. If Tesla Motors are the modern day Tesla, my hope is to play the role of Westinghouse, or some small part of that role.

Half a year later Shai re-emerged, launching Project Better Place, a company funded to the tune of $200M, which intends to deploy the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles.

Project Better Place wants to create the grid of recharge and battery exchange stations, and here comes the interesting part: they want to follow the mobile phone industry’s business model, offering subscribers to the grid subsidized cars that are “cheaper to buy and operate than today’s fuel-based cars”.

I’m sooo ready for a subsidized Tesla smile_regular

Update: Now that there’s a conversation going on about HaaS (Hardware as a Service), I’m going to declare the Shai-mobile CaaS: Car as a Service. smile_wink

Update: Watch Shai on CNBC, first live in the studio, then I believe remotely. Wonder why he put on a tie for the second round…perhaps Thomas knows(?)

Gotta love this quote:

This is not a science project. This in an integration project.

Related posts: WSJ ($), Green Car Congress, New York Times, Green Wombat, Crunchgear (calling Shai “some guy”), isRealli, Earth2Tech, Business Week, alarm:clock, Between the Lines, Techdirt, Babbling VC, VentureBeat, All Tesla Motors Blogs , The Energy Blog,


Thinkpad Reserve: Lenovo (Almost) Gets Hardware as a Service.

The photo above isn’t just a leather portfolio. It’s the Thinkpad Reserve Edition, reported by Crunchgear and Engadget.

For $5,000 you can be part of an exclusive club, since only 5,000 units will ever be made. You’ll also get access to the exclusive, concierge-style support service: immediate access, your own personal support consultant, next-day delivery of a replacement computer ..etc for 3 years, the expected life-time of the Thinkpad. And therein lies the rub.

If you exclusivity is so important that you spend $5K, do you really want to carry a 2-year old computer? Your Thinkpad will be obsolete in 6 months, but let’s say you don’t have to be cutting-edge… in a year it will feel so uncomfortably old… a shame to be seen with, so you might as well keep that nice leather portfolio closed at all times. 😉 Joke apart, here’s what Lenovo missed: adding the strong service part was good, so why not go all the way? Introduce Hardware as a Service: charge an annual fee, include annual computer replacement, but make the transition painless – from contacting the owner through shipping the new units to transferring user setup and data – now that’s real Concierge! Charge whatever they want: $3k -$4K – $5k annually -probably doesn’t matter… exclusivity is priceless. Tongue