Renault Fluence ZE charging at Better Place charge point in apartment bldg [photo: Brian of London]Enlarge Photo
Fuel in Israel today is $7.50 per gallon, and it hit $8.00 just after I ordered my car. Taking consumption figures from the fuel.ly website and assuming no increase (or decrease) in gas price over four years, that gives total fuel costs of $7,700 and $14,900 respectively (₪30,000 and ₪58,000) for the Prius and the Malibu (with base 2.4-liter engine).
Certainly cheaper new cars are available (Hyundais have grown in popularity lately) these two are comparable in size and at least the Chevy has some chance of offering acceleration as "peppy" as the Fluence ZE.
The cloud on the horizon, however, is a collapse in used-car values in Israel. Just opposite the Better Place visitor and sales center is an enormous parking lot filled with unsold off-lease company cars.
Three-year-old French sedans with 40,000 miles (65,000km) can be had for $14,000 (₪55,000) after haggling. These represent the best value motoring in Israel today. I gave up trying to sell my Honda and gave it to one of my employees in lieu of the Toyota Corolla my company had been leasing.
View of unsold off-lease cars from Better Place visitor center [photo: Brian of London]Enlarge Photo
Finally, it's important to note private buyers like me are rare in Israel. Full 90 percent of new cars are sold to companies that lease them to other companies, which provide them to employees. Also, the entire market is controlled by six family run importers who also own most of the lease companies.
The Israeli market is a tough place, and prices have long been kept unduly high for many reasons.
In this context, the Better Place model saves me money compared to the alternatives.
Brian Thomas ("Brian of London") emigrated from the U.K. to Israel in 2009. He now drives a Renault Fluence ZE sold through Better Place--joining David Rose and other early Better Place customers. He owns and operates his own import company in Israel with more than 15 staff. Thomas regularly blogs at Israellycool about life in Israel, technology and business topics.