‘Why market electric cars when charging them causes as much pollution as gasoline-fueled cars?’
By Daniel Schmil

Natural gas power was the subject of the day at automotive conference, hosted by magazine publisher Moto Mass Communication this week. Natural gas is the cleanest fuel, explained Guy Silberman, marketing vice president of Delek Energy Systems.

“Why should we market electric cars in Israel if all cars can be converted to natural gas?” he asked rhetorically. “An electric car pollutes just like any other vehicle, except that the emissions are produced by the Israel Electric Corporation, while hybrids still burn gasoline and aren’t economical for customers.

“We got lucky becoming a gas superpower,” Silberman continued. “For an investment of NIS 3,000 to NIS 4,000, any car can be converted to natural gas. Most of our cars can be easily converted without waiting for drivers to buy new ones.”

Delek Energy has begun approaching company fleets about beginning experiments using natural gas, he said. Licensing procedures are complicated, but his company is working to solve the problem.

Shaul Zemach, director general of the National Infrastructure Ministry, said “the government will push to replace imported energy sources with Israeli sources. But the customer needs to choose how they’re used: whether by electric cars, with natural gas fueling the power stations, or by putting natural gas directly into the car. To us, it’s not important.

“Natural gas will change our whole way of thinking,” he continued. “We are in the process of building a new energy master plan that will take new discoveries into consideration.”

As for electric cars, Zemach said, “we want to provide an electric vehicle infrastructure comfortable for everyone, but there are limitations: We need to install universal chargers in the home.”

He stressed the importance of both preventing electrical system failures and putting Israel at the forefront of safety issues. “The IEC will be the supplier for electric recharging and the address for getting connected,” he said. “The car parks will have a different provider for recharging. We are interested in allowing coexistence between a variety of technologies, without monopolies, and with absolute safety.”

Ran Danai, CEO of Toyota importer Union Motors, said he expects hybrid recharging systems to be the future wave of the automotive world, with gasoline engines replaced by natural gas engines, and perhaps later by hydrogen cells.

But Dan Orenstein, executive vice president of Colmobil, which imports Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors and Hyundai, demurred. “We see hydrogen tanks as the long-term solution,” he said. “Any intermediate solution must consider how much infrastructure is required and for how long. Natural gas poses a significant problem: It is still an internal combustion engine, which isn’t efficient. Alternative solutions will therefore reduce its use.”