100 Days With A Better Place Electric Car: Likes & Dislikes

Follow Brian

Low-battery red warning light on Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, Israel

Low-battery red warning light on Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, Israel

Enlarge Photo

It's been a little more than 100 days since I drove away in my first electric car, a Renault Fluence ZE, as one of the first 100 private paying customers of the Better Place company in Israel.

Here's the rundown of how I've used the car, including my likes and dislikes.

In 113 days, I've covered 3,700 electric miles, and I'm averaging 30 miles a day. I've pre-paid Better Place for 12,400 miles per year, which works out to 34 miles a day.

The car was stationary on 25 days. On 15 days, I've gone beyond the car's "low anxiety" realistic range of 75 miles per charge. I fit the pattern of a driver whose regular requirement is within the range of overnight charges, but also takes occasional long-distance trips.

Fifteen times, I've gone further than 100 miles in a day; on three of those days, I went more than 150 miles.

To cover the longer distances, I was able to switch batteries during a 5-minute stop at a Better Place switching station. I've now switched 23 times, though only 14 of those times were absolutely necessary. (I've demonstrated the process to interested passengers several times, which accounts for the rest.)

Those 14 required switches happened over 10 days. One was necessary because I came home with a low battery and failed to plug it in properly: I could blame my 5-year-old, who plugged me in that day, but that would be unfair! Luckily, I have a switch station just 8 miles away from my home.

The most I've switched in a single day is twice, on four days. Future battery switch stations to be built (we now have only 14 out of 38 planned) will mean three of those trips would become possible with only a single switch.

Daily driving distance distribution for Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, Israel

Daily driving distance distribution for Better Place Renault Fluence ZE, Israel

Enlarge Photo

On two occasions I've had to take a different route than I might otherwise have traveled, because of a non-functioning switching station.

The car's in-dash system alerted me to the problem, and after calling to confirm the outage, I decided to divert. 

I've been called three times by Better Place when my battery level dropped below 12 percent, to check if I was going to be OK. Twice I was a few miles from home, and the other time I had just pulled in to switch the battery.

There is no extra cost to me for unlimited switching: I don't pay any more whether I charge at home or in a public parking space, or by switching batteries.

All of htis works out to roughly 260 miles between battery switches; I used to fill up my gasoline car more often than that!

Stopping, pumping, and paying for gasoline took longer than the switching process does, so I've saved a little time overall.

Follow Us

Comments (10)
  1. I own also a fluence z.e. and we live north to Haifa. I would like to point out that you can check on the Oscar web whether the car is properly plugged in and the percentage of the energy that is left. I recently handed over the car to my son for a trip to the dead sea. He had to switch batteries 4 times and I could follow him on the web and see the level of energy left. The first time he missed the switching station Yarkon and Better Place called him and diverted him to Nesharim switching station. He finally got there with read 5% energy. He had to switch again at Kiryat Gat and then in Arad. Then the energy level did not move and stayed on 100%. It appeared that he got to Yam Hamelach with 100% battery because he drove 30 km down the hill

  2. @ Brian: Imagine that Better Place had opted for the Renault Zoe with it's on board 43KW fastcharger (and actual luggage space)rather than the Fluence with it's battery quick drop system in the trunk. The Fluence gets a network of 38 battery switch stations, a total investment of 38*$500K=$19 million. The Zoe needs high capacity power outlets at ~$3500 a pop (according to Renault)so the same investment could have paid for a network of ~5000 fastcharge stations.

    Battery switch is 5 minutes+ the time involved in the detour, if available at all where your going.
    Fastcharge is 20 minutes, but it's available pretty much everywhere

    Which of the two scenario's would have fitted your driving pattern best?

  3. Unfortunately I've taken 4 trips (short visit meetings) on which I would not have tolerated a fast charge unless the charger happened to be outside my meeting location. Add to that the problems of iced fast chargers and uncertainty as to their operating status and I would not have bought an EV.

    Zoe didn't exist when Better Place built their system. As good as it may be (it still isn't with any users) it would be a ton better with battery switches. I've done the whole fast charge / switch argument to death. I wouldn't buy an EV without acces to switches. I certainly wouldn't pay a premium over a gas car for one! I started saving on day one.

    Trunk space is easily sufficient for me. Haven't wished for more yet.

  4. But.... what if these fastchargers (not really fastchargers, just high capacity power outlets) were conveniently interspaced every 10 miles or so along highways at gas stations, ramps and rest places so one could perfectly plan when and where to recharge and reach any destination along the shortest possible route without having to worry about proximity of rare battery switch stations, would that change your verdict?

    Also I fear many people are rather appalled to open the Fluences trunk just to find most of the space occupied by the quick drop battery system, but that may be due to the fact that the Fluence is an ICE conversion and maybe future BP vehicles can have differently shaped batteries that go where they belong: under the floor.

  5. Unless you can convince my Arab customers to have one of these put in the street outside their offices in Haifa or on the edge of Ramallah or on Salah ha Din St in Jerusalem (where finding street parking requires an act of God), I'm still not buying. I have 10 mins to spare on the way there or back, but I don't have 45 mins or an to divert and charge (hoping the infrastructre is working because it's unattended).

    And the point of the vast investment Better Place has made is that they care passionately about making me happy. Unfortunately nobody in the world has demonstrated that fast charging is a viable business either so nobody appears to take it as seriously.

    And then when you have a large enough fleet fast charging, Israel's grid fails

  6. That's odd...you will make a 15 minute detour to have your battery changed (per one of your earlier posts) but the fastcharger needs to be right at your destination. Even having them at close intervals along the roads wouldn't work for you...

    BP doesn't invest to make you happy but to make a profit. I think that would be easier for them ánd most of their clients would be happier with the cheaper and more practical network system I propose.

    The grid problem could be real, but that doesn't apply to every country and should be solvable.

  7. Wikipedia tells me Israel barely has 4000 miles of roads. Assuming 2000 miles of them make up the main network only 200 relatively cheap power outlets could have supplanted the $19 million investment in a network of only 38 quick drop stations to form IMO a both cheaper and much more practical infrastructure. In combination with a much better EV design like the Zoe that could have been the recipe for success for BP that the current set up so far doesn't appear to be.

  8. I find myself as an informal salesman for Better Place whenever I'm out in the car. If the first thing I had to tell people was they have to change their lives (pausing on longer trips for 30 mins) I know they'd walk. Sure a few ideologues will stay but that's it.

    I guess the unwritten sub head of my piece is, my driving habits haven't changed! I'm just slightly less free to choose when I fill up, but still filling up the same amount. If your driving habit is never more than 75 miles, great. But most people fixate on their fringe cases.

    And it comes back to the whole value package. It really is saving me money from day one.

  9. Whatever system one chooses, range being what it is one always has to plan around opportunities to either quick charge or change battery, so electric motoring will always entail making changes in behaviour. 20 minute fill ups are a drag(could be less though if the sole purpose is to make it home), but so is having to adjust one's itinerary or making detours or deciding some places are just out of range depending on the presence battery change stations that I feel will always be relatively few and far between because of their cost.

    The cheaper the infrastructure, the better value package a supplier could offer.

  10. Chris O,

    I fundamentally disagree about cheaper being better. I agree that Better Place have no business in USA with $4 gas. In EU and Israel with $8 gas it's completely different.

    So in the USA you will have minimal use of EVs for some time to come, only ideologically driven wealthy people will tolerate their current limitations.

    In Israel I do not need my EV to cost 70% less than a gas car to run. I just need the initial purchase at parity (it is or better) and the running costs 15% better (it's even more for me than that). So once the shock wears off and people see them working, the reasons not to buy will drop away. I already hear that in my conversations.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.