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Shai Agassi Weighs In On The Lessons Of Tesla & Electric Cars

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Better Place user David Rose w/keys to Renault Fluence ZE electric car in Israel [photo: David Rose]

Better Place user David Rose w/keys to Renault Fluence ZE electric car in Israel [photo: David Rose]

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Shai Agassi, founder of the now-defunct Better Place electric-car service in Israel, hasn't been in the public eye much of late.

But on the business network LinkedIn this morning, he emerged to weigh in on the lessons of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] and what the auto industry at large could learn from the electric-car startup.

Better Place Israel signs infrastructure agreement with City of Jerusalem

Better Place Israel signs infrastructure agreement with City of Jerusalem

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His post on the topic appears to have been prompted by the news last month that General Motors set up a task force to study Tesla, prompting him to muse on what that company and the rest of the industry could learn.

Agassi suggests in his post--the first of two on the topic, he notes--that "GM shouldn’t be the only company worried about Tesla’s future plans."

And he offers four lessons he feels the industry ignores at its peril.

The first is that an electric car can be an "object of desire," not just a fungible, utilitarian device for moving people and goods from Point A to Point B.

The sleek, Jaguar-like Tesla Model S electric luxury sport sedan has proven that point handily. It's the must-have car in Silicon Valley this year, and it's generating buzz and inquiries among wealthy buyers who have little interest in green causes.

Second: An electric car is more like a modern appliance, "more like a cellphone than a refrigerator."

It will be constantly upgraded and improved--something automakers historically haven't done outside safety recalls.

2012 Renault Fluence ZE electric car, powered by Better Place in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

2012 Renault Fluence ZE electric car, powered by Better Place in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

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Agassi's third point, he says, is that "an electric car is Moore's Law on wheels," or what he calls "exponential technology."

We might challenge his phrasing, as improvements to lithium-ion cell performance do not follow Moore's law (doubling every 18 months). Instead, they average out to about 7 percent a year--as he notes, giving a figure of about 8 percent.

Finally, Agassi suggests that an electric car drives differently, and should sell differently too. The first point is often overlooked in media coverage of monthly or annual sales figures, and is likely the long-term secret weapon of plug-in electric cars.

But the second part of that statement, we suspect, is something that the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) would disagree with--very, very strongly.

That group is embarked on a multi-year lobbying and legislative strategy, along with state dealer associations, to ensure that all vehicles of any sort are sold only through independently owned franchised auto dealers--and Tesla's company-owned store model is made illegal in as many places as possible.

Better Place visitor center [photo: Brian of London]

Better Place visitor center [photo: Brian of London]

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Agassi does not address that issue at all.

Still, his piece is worth reading, as it will educate his many followers on aspects of the electric-car business that may be more familiar to Green Car Reports readers than to the broader business world at large.

As his publicist points out, Agassi is--among his other credentials--one of LinkedIn’s Influencers.

That group is limited to 300 of the world's top luminaries, who "share unique business insights and start thought-provoking conversations" on the business networking site.

Better Place, meanwhile, filed for bankruptcy in May, although 15 of its battery-swap stations will remain open to service 1,000 or so former customers.

The company's assets were purchased by businessman Josef Abramowitz and his company Sunrise SL.

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