Advertisement

One Year With Better Place: Electric-Car Driver's Report

Follow Brian

Better Place Renault Fluence ZE on the streets of Jerusalem

Better Place Renault Fluence ZE on the streets of Jerusalem

Enlarge Photo

Today marks my first anniversary driving a Better Place Renault Fluence ZE battery-electric car.

So it seemed appropriate to summarize my experience to date with the Better Place service, which has had some challenges but is still very much in operation.

I paid around $45,000 upfront for my car and four years of service, which covers all my electricity, battery switching and various other costs for 4 years and roughly 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of driving. All the details can be found here.

Driving and switching

Like the archetypal, mildly obsessive early adopting electric-car driver, I kept a careful record of my first year of ownership.

I've covered 11,650 miles (18,750 km). I also covered 937 miles (1,509 km) in borrowed Better Place cars, so my electric driving total for the year is 12,410 miles (19,970 km). It's not much compared to some high-mileage U.S. drivers, but not bad in a country smaller than New Jersey. I know other owners who have covered nearly double that.

I would estimate 80 percent of my energy is delivered at home, overnight, via the Level 2 charger that Better Place installed in my condo's underground garage. I have also charged on Better Place's public Level 2 charging network at least 20 times.

What's unique to Better Place in Israel and Denmark is the ability to swap out a depleted battery pack and replace it with a fresh one in 5 minutes. There is no fast charging (it would seem slow next to a 5-minute switch to 100 percent charged).

I've switched batteries 89 times, though only 73 of those were completely necessary. (In the early days I showed off the process to interested passengers when it wasn't completely necessary to complete a trip.)

This amounts to one switch every 170 miles (275 km). Shai Agassi's intention was to replace a weekly fill up with gas with a weekly battery switch for out-of-range journeys.

The 100-mile (160-km) range that Renault promised for the Fluence ZE is not normally achievable. A range of 75 miles (120 km) is more realistic, and for this reason I've switched more than Better Place would have anticipated.

Better Place user David Rose w/keys to Renault Fluence ZE electric car in Israel [photo: David Rose]

Better Place user David Rose w/keys to Renault Fluence ZE electric car in Israel [photo: David Rose]

Enlarge Photo

Looking at my rate of switching, however, it has fallen since the network was completed. Today I switch roughly once a week.

I've kept updating the data I mentioned back at 100 days, and so I have a new graph showing my daily driving distance distribution.

Long Distances in A Day

My longest recorded day's driving occurred in February, when I followed a normal day's commute and business use with an evening trip down to Eilat. 

That day I covered 251 miles (405 km). I needed four switches to get to Eilat and four on the way home. My hotel had a number of Better Place-installed and maintained charge spots. They were  mostly blocked by ICE cars but at some point during the weekend a spot opened and I quickly ran to take it.

There is a switch station right at the entrance to Eilat so it's not a big deal starting the return journey with a depleted battery, but it's more convenient if you can charge at a hotel.

It may be technically possible to make the trip from Eilat to Tel Aviv with three switches, but I wasn't prepared to try--and functionally it makes little difference.


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 (5)
  1. Renault have the Master and the small Kangoo vans for delivery services. If there were electric versions of this with suitchtable batteries should be a great increase in costumers for Better Place.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Great article and description.

    Better Place seems like a decent fit for a country that doesn't have significant interstate / international driving destinations.

    However, the Tesla Model S still seems like the future.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  3. It's a great update - thank you for sharing your experience. It looks like a perfect setup in a small country like Israel and it's too bad there's so little support for it. The electric motor failure is, in my eyes, unacceptable though... In your blog you mention that it should be good for "more than 100,000 km" - that's also unacceptable - I thought these things were durable and would outlast any gas engine. I still hope I'm not mistaken but a long-term ownership of this car (as opposed to leasing) would be out of the question at this point. All of my cars have always been trouble-free for over 10 years, even with minimum maintenance, so I'm now really worried about my LEAF :-(
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

  4. Well rounded. i need to add a couple of points.
    My first car was totalled by a van blindsiding me on the rear door and panel. The damage was extensive but I was unhurt. The car was still able to drive up the tow truck ramp.
    The new, identical car has been driven 26K miles in one year, took long trips which required batt-swaps, the overall experience is improving, and the better place service is second to none
    i have not had any malfunctions
    The switchable architectures assures me that when denser batteries are available Better Place will press them into service, if only to reduce the number of required swaps and the likelihood of queues forming up at certain times.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  5. well they are filing for bankruptcy today.... what timing...
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!

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.