Bernard Avishai, the author of two excellent, but sometimes misunderstood, books on Israel and on Zionism, is a professor of business at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and on top of the transformation of the older industrial into a new cyber-industrial economy. Avishai has written a very important article on the electric car for Inc.
Most discussions of energy conservation and climate change pivot on the question of how much of a sacrifice in GDP and consumption Americans will have to make to prevent worldwide calamity in 50 years, but in his account of the electric car, and its place in a new economy, Avishai shows that energy conservation can actually fuel economy growth. It’s the best argument I’ve read for a “green economy.”
The key is not thinking simply of car sales, but of the huge infrastructure of small and large firms that will have to spring up in order to sustain electric cars. Where will they recharge? How will it be possible to prevent them from recharging at the same times? How will drivers know where the nearest recharging station is? What kind of devices can be installed in the neighborhood and home to facilitate recharging? What kind of software will be needed to coordinate the components of the electric car? How will utilities have to reorient their output?
If you imagine what the growth of the oil-powered automotive industry meant for the economy of the 1920s or 1950s—again, measured not just in auto sales, but in gas stations, garages, roads, repairs, parts, etc.—you’ll get an inkling of what the transition to electric cars could entail. It wouldn’t mean sacrifice; instead, it would spur growth and jobs. And as Avishai suggests, the Obama administration seems to understand this and is encouraging the new industry.