Strange Bedfellows? Project Better Place Pairs With GM Australia

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2013 Holden Volt with Better Place Charge Spot and executives from both companies

2013 Holden Volt with Better Place Charge Spot and executives from both companies

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Better Place is now rapidly ramping up the first full deployment of its electric-car service and battery swapping network in Israel, but the company has ambitious plans in other countries as well.

In Israel, it's illegal for electric-car users to plug their cars into just any old wall socket. They must recharge on an approved, networked charging station--of which Better Place has the only one at the moment.

But in other countries, that kind of law is less likely to be accepted by drivers and governments.

So Better Place is partnering up in some cases to broaden its reach and attract new groups of customers and electric-car drivers.

The latest such deal comes out of Australia, where the local unit of GM has designated Better Place its preferred provider of home recharging stations for buyers of its upcoming Holden Volt.

Holden has been GM's native Australian car brand since 1931, though aside from its sedan-based "utes" (pickup trucks), it has few unique vehicles and builds its cars on global GM platforms.

(The same applies to GM's British marque, Vauxhall, which sells a model range in the U.K. that's virtually identical to the cars sold as Opels in Europe.)

The 2013 Holden Volt is built in Chevrolet's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in the U.S., and resembles a Chevy Volt with a round Holden badge replacing its grille-mounted bowtie logo.

2013 Holden Volt with Better Place Charge Spot, Australia

2013 Holden Volt with Better Place Charge Spot, Australia

Enlarge Photo

Better Place will offer various membership packages to Volt buyers in Australia that include installation of a home "Charge Spot" Level 2 charging station, and the ability to recharge the Volt's 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack using only electricity generated from fully renewable sources.

The company will also install a Volt Charge Spot at Volt-certified Holden dealerships, to enable them to keep their stock of Holden Volts fully charged.

Unlike drivers in Israel, however, Australian Volt owners can choose to plug their Volts into a conventional 10-Amp household socket to recharge, without purchasing a Level 2 charging station.

So it'll be interesting to see how well Aussies take to Better Place's offerings when they're not the only legal recharging option if you want to drive electric.

The Holden Volt goes on sale later this year.


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Comments (14)
  1. That is just weird. Better Place is always talking about the "cell phone" model and battery swapping as being the keys to EV success. Now they are just one among many EVSE suppliers. I just don't see them adding much here.

  2. Maybe this is Better Place's backup plan, if swapping doesn't catch on they will have their home and public chargers to fall back on.

  3. Yep, this is weird. EREV is a way of solving the EV range problem that competes with Better place's battery swapping solution. Seems Better Place is going for the crumps here. I wonder why. Maybe BP overcommitted on chargers like they did on cars and is looking for new markets? Strange bedfellows indeed.

  4. Clearly the Better Place business model (especially outside markets with full Battery Switch deployment) is not well understood.

    This fits perfectly with it and they'll do the same thing in Israel IF one of the other Luddite car importers in Israel would bring in another plug in car!

    They are NOT an EV company. They sell miles. Once they are deploying a public charge network it makes sense to sell access to it to anyone. Hawaii has this and no battery switching already.

    In Israel, and when they have a batt switch car in Australia, they will be installing many home chargers and here they are very good at it. They monitor all in real time and will even call me if they detect an issue.

  5. So your saying BP is setting up a charging network in Australia. That would make sense. The article suggests it's just about supplying chargers for homes and dealerships.

  6. Brian's comment is correct. Better Place sells e-miles, and charge spots (home, work, public), switch stations, network control, and customer care capabilities all allow to deliver those to any type of plug-in vehicle to maximize e-miles.
    In Hawaii Better Place has over 150 public charge points across the 4 main islands, making it the largest such network in the state. Hundreds of Leaf, Volt, Plugin Prius, and Mitsubishi i's are using these to increase their e-mile totals and contribute towards Hawaii's goal (and Better Place's mission) of ending dependence on Oil.

  7. BP is also positioning itself as a leading smart grid provider. They have the ability to control the power to each car and to delay charging or curtail if grid conditions are tight.

    Plugging in is no guarantee that charging will start immediately: Better Place manage this. You can request priority charge if you want or know you will need to leave soon.

    This aspect is, as far as I know, unique. There are actually very few applications where you plug in an electrical device but don't actually need it to come on immediately. Cars are the big one that can be delayed and that's why uncontrolled charing of cars is banned in Israel.

  8. Their model is not well understood? Their model seems to be the same a Coulomb. Install charging stations and have a network to facilitate their smooth function.

    Really a huge step back from the moon-shoot that is battery swapping and selling cars without batteries.

  9. John, you are correct that supporting charge for fixed-battery EV's or PHEV's is a different business than supporting switchable EV's, as they address difference customer segments. However, doing them both, along with smart management of the network (as Brian mentioned) doesn't pose any conflict as it allows better utilization of charging assets already required for switchable EV's.
    To help understand the model take Israel as an example; It has the largest number of both charge spots and battery switch stations already deployed, and daily deliveries of Fluence ZE's are in progress. Once other types of PEV's will come to market, Better Place would already have all the assets in place to support why not do so?

  10. looks like BP is generating income to be able to afford to implement a MUCH more expensive swap station network.

  11. Back on topic, from my perspective here in aus, this hook up between Holden and Better Place seems to fit in with what may be a strategic partnership between the two, given that a prototype electric version of the Holden Commodore (coming to the US in 2013 as the Chevy SS Performance) was recently fleet tested by COMCAR govt fleet operator in our capital city, Canberra. The EV conversion was done by in Melbourne, Victoria, 140kw/400Nm electric motor, about 160km range. It is a prototype, apparently has battery swap feature built in, and I have a hunch our auto industry wants to productionise it as the global Better Place large car segment offering...

  12. Forgot this bit at the top.... oops!

    Hi all, long time viewer, first time poster from Australia.....

  13. I can't believe I am ready this crazy article. Who in their right mind living in Australia would pay Better Place to install a level 2 charger in their home when it is exactly the same power as all the other power sockets in their house. It would be like paying an apple approved provider to supply me with a socket to charge my I-phone.

    I know the Australian Government doesn't want people to buy electric cars but this is just nuts.

  14. On my last post I meant "reading this crazy article".

    How can you expect anyone to pay over $50,000 for the car then who knows how much more for the charger, when there is not a single level three charger in the whole country. There are about 100 million level 2 chargers (thats what I plug my toaster into)so why are Better Place bothering to provide more of them.

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