One Year With Better Place: Electric-Car Driver's Report Page 2

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2012 Renault Fluence ZE electric car, powered by Better Place in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

2012 Renault Fluence ZE electric car, powered by Better Place in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

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I've switched twice or more on 17 days, though some of those occurred early on when there was only one switch station open on the way to Jerusalem. There are now four or five depending on the route, so sub-optimal switches can be largely avoided--making Jerusalem a one- or no-switch trip (if I can slow charge in a mall parking lot.)

My most common out-of-range trip remains a run to Jerusalem and back, often skirting Ramallah just to the North of Jerusalem. This route has me covering 105 miles (170 km) in a day.

Another common trip is to Haifa and back, around 125 miles (200 km). I never consider driving more slowly to conserve battery range, and I've never turned off the air conditioning either. I've used the car's heater on the rare occasions it was needed.

Battery Switching

In the early days this was a bit of an event. An attendant would emerge from the station as you arrived, ask your name and offer a cup of water. Today it's a little different: I haven't seen an attendant at a switch station since the start of the year.

Better Place has quickly transitioned to unattended stations. In addition to the simple arm barrier, the stations now have roller shutters which keep curious locals from wandering inside them. These lift automatically as you arrive.

All the stations have big glass viewing windows to the side, and if they're located appropriately--there's one in an open mall car park in the North for example--they nearly always draw a crowd when a car pulls in for a switch.

I haven't experienced any failures during a switch, but one of my fellow customers has. On his way back to his home in Jerusalem he experienced a failure mid-switch. After a few attempts to remotely clear the problem, the Better Place call center advised him and his wife to leave their car.

The door to the station office was remotely opened, and the keys to a fully charged replacement vehicle were sitting on the desk. They drove home in that car, and the following morning their car was returned to them.

The whole failure and recovery took about the same amount of time as replacing a flat tire. Obviously the station was marked out of service for all other drivers, but this is automatic and nearby drivers receive an alert on their in-car Oscar telematics system.


In one year, my car has failed me twice: the first was a fault that allowed the car to keep driving. Though I didn't know it at the time, I could have cleared that fault by driving myself to a switch station for a new battery. Better Place actually gave me a replacement car and took mine away for a few days.

The other fault was a failed motor. That required a tow truck and another replacement car, again identical to mine. Two days later my motor had been replaced and the car was returned to me.

Both these failures were dealt with brilliantly by Better Place and Renault together, and I can't fault the service.

Range prediction and software

In February Better Place issued a major over-the-air software upgrade to the Oscar in-car navigation and entertainment system. (As a note, Tesla was not the first company to provide this service, as Better Place has been doing this since January 2012--before the Model S was released.)

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