2012 Renault Fluence ZE electric car, powered by Better Place in Israel [photo: Brian of London]Enlarge Photo
This update took away the pretty 3D navigation we had previously enjoyed, but replaced it with a more accurate state-of-charge prediction algorithm.
Since the beginning my car has been able to predict how much energy each journey would take. This was always accurate on the flat, but less so when climbing and descending hills. I find its prediction of state-of-charge at my destination to be far more useful than the reading of distance remaining. My car provides that too, but I rarely notice what it says.
The upgrade seems to have improved these predictions greatly. It is still a little conservative (overestimating energy needed) where there are long descents, but uphill it is now very accurate.
On the trip up to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a climb of 2,700 ft (800 m), it is now accurate to within 2 percent. Before one could arrive with as much as 10 percent less energy than predicted.
Oscar can also now predict negative values (previously it cut off at 0 percent), giving a much more useful indication of whether a particular trip is possible without switching.
Driving feel and car quality
I'm still very happy with the way the car feels. Acceleration is sharp and fast especially in town. The speed away from standstill is still breathtaking.
The Renault Fluence ZE is not a Tesla Model S, but it is much quicker than similarly sized gasoline or diesel cars: only rare and exotic performance models can beat me if I take part in traffic-light drag races.
The interior is still bolted together well, with no rattles and squeaks. Note that this car is built to a strict budget in Turkey. But because it's not exploding fuel in cylinders, the refinement inside is that of much more expensive cars.
This, for me, is the key to the joy of driving an electric car: When I'm sitting in traffic in Tel Aviv, I'm in a car that gives me the experience of something that costs twice its price.
I paid for my car and four years of Better Place service upfront in full. I was able to borrow the full amount at a favorable interest rate. I covered those costs in detail here.
Since then my motoring has cost me no more than my monthly loan payment, plus two flat-tire repairs, a few car washes, and the regular road tax fee (there's no discount in Israel for plug-in electric cars).
The car requires a service every 18,000 miles (30,000 km) or once a year. This service cost me $180, around 30 percent less than a corresponding service on a normal car would have cost. Just oil and filters together would have cost around $70.
There is feeling of camaraderie amongst the many Better Place owners I've met in person and via social networks. Better Place have held meetings for as many owners wished to attend including the one I described here.
Over the last month, driven by Better Place owners but not restricted to them, plans for an electric-vehicle lobbying group in Israel have emerged--which I support wholeheartedly. Owners are now reaching out to local politicians and starting to lobby on behalf of all electric vehicles, even though Better Place still offers the sole plug-in car sold in the country.