Advertisement

Better Place: First Battery Swap Station, Profit In 2 Years?

Follow John

Better Place battery-swap demonstration

Better Place battery-swap demonstration

Enlarge Photo

Better Place, the ambitious program that's launching its electric-car service in Israel, opened its first battery-swap station there on Wednesday.

At an event marking the opening, CEO Shai Agassi said the company would be profitable within two years of starting to provide mobility services to its customers in Israel and Denmark.

Transport by the mile

The ambitious multimillion-dollar startup wants to sell electric transportation by the mile, contracting with registered users to provide a certain number of miles each month in an electric car that it provides. The model is similar to the way mobile-phone companies provide service.

The wrinkle at Better Place, since users may need more than the 70- to 100-mile range of battery electric cars, is a network of battery-swap stations along high-speed roads in which a user can get a fully recharged battery pack (kept onsite) swapped into the car in less than five minutes.

Better Place Israel CEO Moshe Kaplinsky displays the first electric parking lot in Israel.

Better Place Israel CEO Moshe Kaplinsky displays the first electric parking lot in Israel.

Enlarge Photo

The company also plans 400 charging stations in parking lots and other publicly-accessible areas, of which 200 have already been completed.

Just one car so far

Thus far, only one manufacturer--French carmaker Renault--has committed to working with Better Place to provide electric vehicles with swappable battery packs. It signed a deal to provide 100,000 models of its Fluence ZE electric sedan by 2016. The range is up to 115 miles (185 km)

That allows long-distance electric driving, although many analysts view it as one of the most challenging parts of the entire Better Place scenario.

Renault Fluence ZE production electric sedan

Renault Fluence ZE production electric sedan

Enlarge Photo

The newly opened station is in the Israeli town of Kiryat Ekron; nine of 40 planned stations within the country's borders have now been completed. The rest are scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

Better Place had previously tested the battery-swap concept at four prototype swap stations used by electric taxis in Tokyo.

Profits within two years

As for profitability, CEO Shai Agassi claimed at the Kiryat Ekron event that Better Place would break even in two years after its services opened. He noted that the entire cost of its infrastructure in Israel was $175 million, or equivalent to the cost of seven days' worth of gasoline.

He expects 50 percent of new vehicles sold in Israel to be electric by 2015. That, he said is the tipping point for electric cars, and he repeated a prediction that electric cars will account for 10 percent of all cars sold globally by 2020.

Taking orders in Denmark

Three weeks ago, Renault joined with the company in opening the first Better Place Center in Copenhagen. It's the first place that Danes can view the Fluence ZE vehicle and place orders for one of five fixed-price packages of mobility, depending on distance driven.

Nissan electric taxi leaving Better Place battery switching station, Tokyo, April 2010

Nissan electric taxi leaving Better Place battery switching station, Tokyo, April 2010

Enlarge Photo

Unlike in Israel, where Better Place provides the cars, in Denmark customers order the car from Renault and then separately contract for the package of miles. The first Renault electric cars will be delivered in Denmark between October and December this year.

For drivers who cover less than 12,500 miles per year, the cost ranges from $280 to $350 (€199 to €249) per month--plus the cost of the car. There's also a one-time fee of $1,900 (€1,341) that covers installation of a 240-Volt charging station. Unlimited distance is $565 (€399) per month.

Better Place has said that the cost of using its service will be no more than it costs to drive on gasoline, when lifetime vehicle and fuel costs are taken into account.

What do you think about the Better Place model? Can it succeed, and if so, under what circumstances?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Jerusalem Post; Reuters; Renault]

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (10)
  1. Since when has more infrastructure to depend on been good for consumer choice? We have only just begun to unravel and escape the infrastructure of fossil fuel,and now were ready to start another energy prison? I will not say "Good Luck" to those that would stagnate battery development and those who cannot see the errors of our past.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. "Better Place has said that the cost of using its service will be no more than it costs to drive on gasoline, when lifetime vehicle and fuel costs are taken into account."
    So which is it? Compare aforementioned and following excerpts. I thought Better Place's whole model was predicated on offering less expensive overall operating costs for customers.
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/03/better-place-unveils-prices-at-danish-dealer-debut/
    "Better Place spokeswoman Julie Mullins says Danish customers considering conventional cars in the same class are looking at a savings of 10 to 20 percent by going with Better Place.
    “At the end of the day, to make people switch, you have to make an offering that’s affordable,” she said."
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. Same answer as for EEstor, LOL.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. I think that especially in Israel, customers are willing to do anything to reduce their reliance on arabian oil. Especially if they really don't have to pay anything extra. If the overall cost is a wash, why wouldn't you want to stop sending money to countries that hate you with a passion?
    Denmark really doesn't have the same incentive, although the tax incentive makes it cheaper to consumers than buying a gas car.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Funny thing is you don't need swap stations in a country as small as Israel. A LEAF can drive the entire length on a single charge.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. The length of Israel is of no matter: battery pack switching technology is presumably for those willing to pay for a convenience. A bag of ice in a supermarket is often less expensive than a bag of ice in a convenience store, yet convenience stores sell boat loads of ice. The swapped battery does not alter a car's driving character. Battery swapping takes less than a minute. The Better Place Tokyo battery swapping station is a thing of beauty.
    Tokyo:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMDxCQ2lUq0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh0mDhCGkkA&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
    A day in the life with a Better Place electric vehicle (EV):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAzQR6_v7qA&feature=related
    Electruk makes excellent points re 'shopping' locally.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. If the calculus presented in the article is all-inclusive, Better Place may go no place. An Israeli who drives 10000 miles per year (approximating the average) spends around EUR 180 per month on gasoline at today's prices and really can drive the length of the country on one fill-up (as one cannot on an electric charge--the country isn't that small). On that basis, the changeover isn't worth it. A big tax credit or rebate on buying the vehicle might change the calculation, but I haven't heard of one being offered.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. Saying it costs the same is meaningless - that would depend upon the vehicles being "the same", which I really doubt - those Renaults are bare bones vehicles. The costs per month are way out of line and no mention of what these bare bones econoboxes
    cost. And since when did Better Place become a profit making enterprise? It has been granted a monopoly by the Israeli govt, a foolish move since it has no control over prices. They need competition, not monopolistic institutions - they've created another Ma Bell. The entire situation is rather disgusting.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  9. "They need competition, not monopolistic institutions - they've created another Ma Bell. The entire situation is rather disgusting."
    Yes, it's truely disgusting for those who wish to protect the monopoly that oil burning has on the wolds current passenger car fleet.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  10. I visited and test-drove one of their cars during my recent visit to Israel. The experience is great. If I lived in Israel I wouldn't consider anything but BP. And when I visit there next, if the rental car company would offer it, I would definitely choose this over gas. How much more would I be willing to pay for the same class car if it were electric over gas? I don't know. But I do know that I would be willing to pay a premium to know my total cost of ownerhip up front.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!
Advertisement

Advertisement

 
© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.