Israel, Technology, and going green.
As an American, I get to hear all the time about being green. I hear about alternative energies, organic farming, sewage treatment, desalination, and a whole host of different environmental initiatives. However in such a big country like America, we often do not see it in action. Sure we do it all, but not in every city and every place. With such a huge amount of land things are vastly more spread out.
In Israel this is quite different. The nation is about the size of the state of New Jersey. Within that small tract of land, there are several different types of landscape. You have mountains, and valleys, rivers and seas, deserts and woodlands, farms and cities. This makes for many unique different solutions for the environmental ‘crisis’ that we Americans speak so much about. In America I put quotes around the word ‘crisis’ because things are not in dire straits for us. However in Israel these issues are real and they are life and death.
Water shortages in a desert are serious. A lack of oil in a small land without many friends matters. So this has led to Israel becoming a world leader in environmentalism. Here are some interesting highlights for you.
- Waste Water Treatment
- Electric Cars
- Solar Energy
- Wind Power
I want to focus on the top three on the list because those are things I spent the most time learning about. Lets begin with Desalination. Israel is in the process of building Five desalination plants. So far they have built Three of the five with the goal of having all Five supply 750 million gallons of water each year. That equates to roughly One Third of Israel’s annual water needs. The desalination plant in Ashkelon is the largest in the world. Israel is considered a world leader in desalination and many nations with a coastline shouold take them as an example.
Now let us discuss waste water treatment. Most people are grossed even by the thought of it, but it is a great source of water. Israel takes the waste water from its cities and then purifies it. When it has been sufficiently purified, that water is then sent to farmers. Not farms where food is produced, but places where they need water for non food plants. To the National parks to water their trees, flowers, and lawns. To textile and cotton farms, and others who are desperate for water to keep the land alive. To many Americans, even many who claim to be environmentalists this is a gross thought, but in reality it is a brilliant way to keep the economy, and the land thriving even in the midst of drought.
The third thing on the list I feel the need to mention is Electric cars. See, I m a car guy, and having seen the electric cars here in America, the very thought of an electric car is repugnant, because the term evokes images of hideous looking beasts who terrible performance that are highly impractical to anyone going on a road trip. However, once again, Israel helps to shift my mindset. This is where Better Place comes in. When I saw the schedule, it said one of our Itinerary items was to Go to Better Place. When someone tells me we are going to a better place, my first thought is not cars, but death. However I am gladly mistaken this time.
Better Place manufactures practical, powerful electric cars. They were given a grant from the Renault Automotive Corporation in France who gave them a fleet of car bodies to try their experimental engine in. It is a fully electric battery powered engine that is set in a sleek looking 4 door sedan and has all the extra amenities of a modern sedan. So, simply by seeing the car, one of my issues with electric cars was nullified. This was not an ugly eyesore. I didn’t have to give up aesthetics just to satiate my desire to help the environment.
But, the looks of the car aren’t nearly as important to me as its power and performance. How do these stack up against traditional vehicles of the same style? Luckily for all of you who are now in suspense waiting for the answer, they let me test drive it. The Better Place / Renault Fluence Z.E has a top speed of approximately 115 mph. and on a full battery can currently go about 115 miles. As the battery technology increases, that number will go up. Now in a place like America, where the land is vast and spread out this might not seem practical, but in a country like Israel which is roughly the size of New Jersey, this means you can travel almost north to south with no issue. It handles amazing and accelerates quickly. The test track had two lengthy straightaways a few curves, and a roundabout. I took most of the track pedal to the metal, because I wanted ot put the car to the test, and it drifted the roundabout like something from The Fast & The Furious. I was legitimately impressed, because I tested it by driving much harder than I would on a normal trip. So it passed that test, but what about practicality?
How do you charge it? Well, when you buy the car, you sign up for a power plan. Bascialy its a monthly fee you pay for the electricity that charges your car. So instead of shelling out a few sheckles each time you need gas, you pay up front each month. As part of this, you get two charging stations. One for home, and one to put where you need it, perhaps at the office, or some other place you spend a lot of time at? Then around the cities in Israel, Better Place is installing charging stations so that you will be able to park and charge whle you are downtown shopping or going to the movies, or anything else you are doing.
But the real key to the power issue is Battery Changing Stations. These are just like gas stations and will be found around the country. You pull up, swipe your better place subscription card and then it switches your drained battery for a fresh one. This process takes about five minutes which is about the same time you would spend at the gas station filling your tank.
All in all, better place was able to really make me rethink my stance on electirc cars, and it gives me hope that this technology will one day be practical in a place like America. Well, that seems like a long enough update. Check back tomorrow for an article on Organic Farming in Israel.