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One Year With Better Place: Electric-Car Driver's Report Page 4

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Renault Fluence ZE charging at Better Place pubic charge spots in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

Renault Fluence ZE charging at Better Place pubic charge spots in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

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In my eyes, Israel's government is doing nothing to support electric cars--and in some cases, actively blocking Better Place's progress. For details, see my article in the Times of Israel.

Imagine: Despite the massive private investment Better Place has made in Israel for both infrastructure and R&D, the government won't allow Ministers who request an electric car to have one (the new Health Minster has asked).

The ranks of owners are now swelling quickly, especially with many of Israel's largest companies buying or leasing Better Place cars for their employees. 

I conducted an unscientific poll of owners via the private Facebook group that many belong to. Out of 175 members, the poll was "seen by" 95 of whom 28 were very happy and 2 merely happy. No other responses.

There's not much to point out except to recall that one of Chevrolet Volt owners were 92 percent happy or very happy--the best results for any Chevy vehicle in history.

Better Place customers are pleased to see an improvement in the marketing of the car, but we still feel that public knowledge about Better Place and electric cars in general is very low.

Ads featuring real, happy owners instead of models are welcome, and having the car now on sale in shopping malls and department stores is also very good.

What could improve

There are a few in-car software improvements that could still be made. The car has no clock at all, and I'd like to see a much larger display of the time on it. Obviously range prediction can be further tweaked to improve accuracy.

There remains one major hole in Better Place's switch station network, which the company is well aware of. There were plans for switch stations closer to Israel's coastal highway that runs between Tel Aviv and Haifa, with a station just outside Haifa to the south and another closer to Tel Aviv but right on the highway.

Various problems stopped these being built, and in the current climate they won't be built anytime soon. This is a pity but journeys are still possible.

There is much more scope for municipal parking lots to add charge spots: Tel Aviv is well served, but Jerusalem and Haifa are far behind. It's hoped the lobbying group will help address this. Again, this largely isn't the fault of Better Place, which is ready to put in new Level 2 charge spots as and when property owners ask for them.

Most present owners accept the range limitations of the current car, but we do feel that slightly improved range (especially up to the 100 miles discussed before the Fluence ZE was delivered) would make life a little easier--and widen the appeal of the car.

But that's a common story among electric-car owners: once you've lived with daily recharging at home, range issues largely melt away.

Verdict

Overall, I'm very happy to have switched to an electric car as early as I did. I wouldn't be driving one today if it weren't for Better Place: I couldn't accept the range limitations without the kind of infrastructure we have in Israel.

An 85-kWh Tesla Model S is the only electric car that could have covered all but one of my journeys this year. But it costs far more than my Renault.

I've saved money, and I've more than enjoyed it: I honestly feel the car is worth more in this market than it costs today.

I wouldn't swap my car today for anything on sale in Israel.

Brian of London emigrated from the UK to Israel in 2009. He owns and operates his own import company in Israel with more than 15 staff. Today he regularly blogs at Israellycool.com about life in Israel, technology & business topics and, lately, his electric-car driving experiences.

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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.
     
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  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.
     
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  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 :-(
     
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  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.
     
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  5. well they are filing for bankruptcy today.... what timing...
     
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