"The rest of the world said: 'We need a car and an outlet,' " Agassi says. "A person would buy the car like an air conditioner. We said: 'To get to the mass of 100,000 or a million cars, we need an infrastructure system.' "
Of the 2.5 million cars on Israel's roads today, only about 10,000 are hybrids and a handful are electric. But Israeli leaders have eagerly embraced a plan that could free them from dependence on oil from hostile countries, slashing tax rates for electric cars from 72 percent to 10 percent.
"We are dedicating a rehabilitation institute from the drug called gasoline," says Minister of National Infrastructures Uzi Landau at the station's opening.
Better Place is building a similar nationwide infrastructure in Denmark and plans to follow with Australia, Japan, California, and Hawaii. The company will deliver the first major round of Renault cars in late 2011, and has committed to buying 100,000 vehicles for Israel and Denmark by 2016. About half of Israel's 300 biggest corporations have signed agreements to consider switching to the electric vehicles once they are available.
Critics contend the cars will switch pollution from the tailpipe to the smoke stack – while handing a monopoly to Better Place.