Shai Agassi, the electric car evangelist, looked haggard but vindicated at the Paris Auto Show last week. Partially vindicated, anyway.

All kinds of automakers are scrambling to show off electric models, a big change from even two years ago. But plenty of people in the industry still think his "subscription" model for electric cars is a pipedream.

Mr. Agassi, a former software executive, wants to make electric cars a mass-market product, not the province of latte-sipping do-gooders. To do so, electric cars need to carry a mass-market price.

That's pretty much the opposite approach taken by General Motors with the Chevy Volt, which will cost a lot more than most GM models (and still strain GM’s bottom line.)

"The Volt is a $20,000 car that will cost $40,000. It will be a niche product," Mr. Agassi says. "We want to make electric cars a mass market thing, and the only way to do that is to make it cheaper than driving a regular car."

Not than "buying" a regular car. Mr. Agassi, in partnership with Renault, wants the price of an electric car to be about the same as a regular car — but without the battery.

Then, Mr. Agassi would offer a long-term subscription model for customers to rent the battery and have access to recharging stations.

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