Forward Thinking

Can Israel's Electric Car Revolution Rev Up?

By Nathan Jeffay

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Can the American man leading Israel’s solar power revolution work his magic on the country’s ailing electric car company?

Better Place launched with big, international plans, but went bankrupt earlier this year. Now, Yosef Abramowitz, an idealistic American businessman who first became acquainted with Israel on a Young Judea gap-year program and has had a growing connection with the Jewish state ever since, is in the hot-seat to resuscitate the company.

Abramowitz’s Sunrise Ltd, together with the Association for the Promotion of the Electric Car in Israel took control of all of the company’s assets in Israel, as well as its intellectual property in Switzerland subject to the Swiss seller. The deals for the two countries are worth 18 million shekels ($5 million) and 25 million shekels ($7 million) respectively — and possibly more by the time all monies are paid.

Abramowitz is a charismatic and talented operator, who has iron determination. The Forward interviewed him when he was just about to assemble his first solar power field for his Arava Power, the first company to sell electricity to Israel’s national grid. He recalled when we spoke to him how the idea for solar in Israel came to him in a flash of inspiration when he was visiting and found the early-morning sun so hot and thought to himself that the region should exploit it to its full potential. But it’s not his inspiration that has made him succeed — it’s his determination.

Abramowitz isn’t the first person to think of feeding solar energy in to Israel’s national grid, but he’s the only person who had the staying power to spend years bashing his head against what looked like the brick wall of state bureaucracy, and then continuing the crusade through endless paperwork to get his project off the ground.

Better Place’s big mistake is that it over-expanded. It didn’t get its model working well on a small scale before thinking, and spending, big. If Abramowitz reins in the operation, and runs it cautiously and with that quality which is at a premium in Israeli business — patience — he may just realize Better Place’s original vision of making electric cars mainstream.


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