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Shai Agassi's vision of producing an electric car took a step forward yesterday, after a test drive in the Renault-based prototype by a representative of the Chief Scientist's Office.

"My first impression was that the vision of an electric car is on its way to realization," said Mina Goldiak, the deputy chief scientist in charge of international relations and cooperation - and responsible for the project on behalf of the Trade and Industry Ministry.

Goldiak took her test drive on a prototype developed before the commercial production stage. Agassi has been pushing his vision of electric-powered vehicles all over the world for the past year, with the help of President Shimon Peres. Last year he enlisted Idan Ofer of The Israel Corporation as a strategic investor.

"The drive took place in a closed parking lot. I could not go very fast, but I clearly saw two things: the car accelerates very quickly, and driving is particularly quiet. The only noise you hear is the whisper of the hydraulic pump, which in a normal car is swallowed up by the engine noise. This is a particularly soft whisper, and if for example quiet classical music was playing in the car you would not hear the noise at all," said Goldiak.

"This is the experimental prototype of the electric car Renault manufactured for demonstration. This is still not the commercial model that will be sold to the public. Other improvements are planned for the model which will go on sale.

"Here, for example, the battery fills the trunk and weighs 230 kilograms, and in order to place it there we had to make special alterations to the car. In the commercial model the weight will be less and the location will be different, so you will be able to use the trunk," explained Goldiak.

"Already a year ago I visited the Renault factory in France with Shai Agassi and Shimon Peres. I saw models that were being examined as a base for the electric car, as part of a general examination of the vision. Today I actually touched the product for the first time and felt it. It is clear that we need to continue with the tests and planning of the idea. Of course I could not experience changing the battery; but all in all it seems as if the vision could be put into practice. The fact is there is an electric car which drives. Not a small car with limited technologies, but the vision of the development of an electric family-sized sedan," she added.

While the feasibility of the electric car is still in dispute, it seems that yesterday the project gained a number of important points with Eli Opper, the chief scientist, who is supposed to make the recommendation to the cabinet if it is worth supporting - and financing - part of the research and development of the project.