A car propelled by wind, a bicycle powered by a fuel cell, a train that floats on water – no idea was too farfetched to present at EcoMotion, a recent Israeli “unconference” presenting alternative smart transportation solutions at different stages of development.
“Over 250 people attended -- from young students to entrepreneurs in their 70s and 80s -- and everyone was really excited to share ideas and projects,” says Boaz Mamo, executive director of Ecomotion for the Israel Science Technology and Innovation Policy Institute (ISTIPI), which is co-sponsoring the initiative with the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Science, Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) and the Israeli automotive industry.
“The atmosphere and energy were amazing. People stayed till 1 or 2 in the morning to talk more and create something together,” Mamo reports.
A homemade personal transportation device displayed at the “unconference.”
He stressed that EcoMotion isn’t a one-time event, and it is not competitive. Its main purpose is to foster a creative, collaborative community of minds from a variety of disciplines. Any practical, concrete products that may arise from this community would be icing on the cake.
“We will continuously hold lots of small events during the year -- workshops, meetings with investors and government officials -- discussing collaborations to maintain the community and keep it strong,” says Malmo. “We are big believers in the free market. Everyone with an idea can take a shot at it, but we’re not promising anything.”
Crazy ideas could lead to smart solutions
EcoMotion complements Israel’s national program to reduce global dependency on oil, said Prof. Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council. "We believe that innovation is a key component for success in this complex process,” he said in his open invitation to participants.
The invitation also made it clear that no solution would be considered too "crazy."
An electric personal golf cart?
Innovators, entrepreneurs, academics, philanthropists, representatives of financial and government institutions and international/local businesses (including heavy-hitters such as General Motors, Toyota, IBM, Elbit, Rafael, IAI, Mobil-Eye and Vulcan) were encouraged to listen to each other’s ideas -- no matter how wacky -- and form working relationships.
EcoMotion participants came from smart transportation-related fields including energy efficiency, electric and hybrid propulsion methods; energy systems; smart electric grids, electro-chemical energy storage sources and devices (such as fuel cells and batteries); independent propulsion systems; smart navigation systems and more.
The idea is eventually to grow the Israeli meeting of minds into an international exchange of ideas and promotion of innovations for transportation and alternative fuels.
Mamo says the project began with orientations at different locations across Israel between October and December 2012, and kicked off in January 2013.
At an EcoMotion introductory event in March at the Better Place Visitor Center, presentations were made by Ziv Gottesfeld of CellEra (www.cellera.biz) and Avi Modiany of DZ Systems, which is developing electric scooters. Eyal Kramer discussed car design in the electric era, and Israel Ron reviewed apps for the “connected” car.
All of this led up to the EcoMotion “unconference” in May at Sdot Yam, near Caesarea.
"The best minds in the world are looking for a way to reduce dependence on oil, which serves the interest of terrorist organizations and is environmentally destructive,” said investment banker Meir Arnon, chairman of EcoMotion.
“The goal is to create new and original ways to travel within cities and between them. Israel has a strategic interest in being a pioneer in this field, as we have already become in the past in the water technology and defense industries.”