Hard Look / Electric Car to Nowhere?

It was the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's Chief Scientist Eli Opper's turn this week to inform us the emperor has no clothes.

I'm a high-tech star. I travel the globe with a spectacular presentation and the ability to enthrall audiences, especially ones that don't ask hard questions. I have an idea that could save the world, but it's going to cost tons of money. I don't know exactly how much, and I don't have the money to finance it myself. Nor do I have a plan showing how the idea works, just general ideas. I remind some people of the high-tech bubble of 2000, the one where millions bought into cottony dreams. I don't need hundreds investors, only a few with deep pockets who think they are visionaries .

It doesn't matter who this imaginary monologue belongs to. What should matter is whether we have learned anything from the high-tech bubble. Apparently people are again willing to invest in a technological idea without having seen a detailed business and technology plan. Like the government of Israel, for instance, which has rushed to adopt Shai Agassi's electric car initiative without having seen essential data, leaving questions hanging in the air.

It was the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's Chief Scientist Eli Opper's turn this week to inform us the emperor has no clothes. "Once I know what the planned technology is, and what the underlying research and development is, I will be able to evaluate its technological feasibility. I need something concrete to form an opinion," he said.

The Chief Scientist evaluates R&D plans, calculates timetables and predicts the chances of success. The electric car initiative has no R&D or technological plan, just ideas, Opper explained. "There are papers scattered among various offices, but not at the level we are accustomed to reviewing. So I cannot provide a professional opinion as to the technology's feasibility, only a general assessment," he said.

Opper's distress is understandable. He, who is accustomed to act based on practical criteria, is being asked to prepare a professional assessment that will be, in fact, a virtual one. To navigate between the government's support for the agreement and his own professional manifesto, which does not allow him to approve the initiative.

It is only appropriate that the government send Agassi home to do some homework, and prepare a technological feasibility plan for the development of an electric car. It's not worth getting everyone worked up and wasting the time of government employees who have been ordered to review the repercussions for their specific fields without a clear technological feasibility plan. Real problems remain to be solved before they start working on virtual ones.