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Agassi drives 'lectric car empire across Pacific

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After conquering San Francisco, Shai Agassi has bounded across the Pacific, expanding his electric car empire onto the islands of Hawaii.

Yesterday, the Better Place CEO joined Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle in claiming that the company's mobile-phone inspired 'leccy-vehicle network would be up and running in the fiftieth state within 18 months.

Better Place is already prepping charging spots and battery-swap stations in Australia, Denmark, and Israel as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. During an interview with The Reg at San Francisco City Hall last month, Agassi said Israel will see 1,000 juice-your-car parking spots by this spring.

The former SAP wunderkind likes to call his company "Vodacar." The idea is that Better Place will supply your car with juice in much the same way wireless operators supply your phone with cell access. You'll pay a monthly fee to use the company's network of charging spots and battery swap stations.

Agassi even talks of subsidizing cars. But at the moment, this seems little more than talk. Speaking with The Reg, he said Better Place will spring for your car's battery — "in essence." A significant expense, to be sure. But it's unclear exactly how this will work.

Presumably, Hawaii has agreed to grease permitting for the Better Place network — and provide tax breaks for 'leccy-car owners. But it appears the specifics have yet to be ironed out. Calls to multiple Hawaiian officials went unanswered.

Better Place expects to begin permitting within the next year and open the network to the masses by 2012. ®

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