In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk became household names, a 39-year-old Israeli tech entrepreneur by the name of Shai Agassi came out with an announcement that rattled the world: He was going to revolutionize transportation, make countries oil-free by 2020, and curb the effects of climate change. Agassi hoped to put millions and millions of drivers, all around the globe, behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car, with virtually unlimited range. And that, he told anyone who would listen, was going to make the world a “Better Place.”
On a hot day of early summer, host Mishy Harman got into Brian and Jody Blum’s electric car and together they drove to the local Renault dealership. This seemingly uneventful errand was, in reality, deeply symbolic. It represented the end of a dream—a dream that people like Bill Clinton and Shimon Peres believed was going to usher in a new global era.
Brian Blum is a Jerusalem-based journalist whose new book Totaled: The Billion Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World chronicles the demise of that dream. In this unusual Israel Story episode, he follows the promise, fall, and survival of Israel’s electric future.
The music in this episode includes original tracks composed and performed by David Peretz, as well as music by Blue Dot Sessions, Jason Shaw and Audionautix, Kevin McLeod and Royal Free Sound, Bird Creek, Twin Musicom, Chris Zabriskie and Bensound. The final song, “Mechonit,” is by Mashina. The episode was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum.