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EV battery-swapping company goes to a better place

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May 27, 2013

Battery-swapping company, Better Place, has filed a motion to be put into liquidation

Battery-swapping company, Better Place, has filed a motion to be put into liquidation

Swappable batteries might seem like a good idea to overcome the range limitations of electric vehicles, but the benefits of such an approach weren’t enough to save Better Place, the company responsible for the first commercial implementation of a battery-switching service. After just one year of commercial operation, a motion has been filed in Israel asking for the dissolution of the company and the appointment of a temporary liquidator.

Better Place’s end comes as a result of the company’s controlling shareholder, Israel Corporation, deciding against investing in Better Place’s upcoming financing round. Israel Corporation was unable or unwilling to commit the large amount needed to keep Better Place afloat after it was unable to find any other investors to chip in.

Better Place management says it had made fundamental changes to the company in the past six months while continuing to attract additional financing, but that company revenue was still well short of operating costs. This left liquidation as the only alternative.

“This is a difficult day for all of us,” said Better Place CEO, Dan Cohen. “We have come a long way in order to bring about a global vision. From the start, Better Place was a breakthrough for the infrastructure of the electric car industry and successfully completed the development of its technology and infrastructure. Israel was the first place in which an electrical car could travel without limit. Unfortunately, after a year’s commercial operation, it was clear to us that despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming.”

After premiering its first battery-switching station demonstration project in Yokahama, Japan, in 2009, the company followed up with demonstration projects in Tokyo, San Francisco and Amsterdam.

It then launched its first large-scale commercial battery-switching service in Israel in December 2008, with 21 operational stations open to the public there by mid September 2012. The company also established a network of charging infrastructure comprising 17 fully operational stations in Denmark by December 2012, with plans for stations to be rolled out in Australia and China in the coming years. The Board of Directors will ask the voluntary liquidator to maintain the functioning of Better Place’s already established network if possible.

The operations in Israel and Denmark used Renault Fluence Z.E. EVs, with Renault announcing it will continue to provide after-sales servicing for the vehicles and their batteries in the wake of the Better Place liquidation.

“We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies,” Better Place’s Board of Directors said in a statement. “The vision is still valid and important and we remain hopeful that eventually the vision will be realized for the benefit of a better world. However, Better Place will not be able to take part in the realization of this vision.”

Source: Better Place via Globes

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
12 Comments

I don't see how any company could ever make this work without buy-in from 100% of EV manufacutrers, to agree on ONE standard battery.

It would also have to be fitted with one mounting method, have exactly the same connectors, cell technology, voltage, and weigh roughly the same whatever it's capacity.

I'm glad I wasn't asked to invest in Better Place at start-up... That would have been a short conversation..

Paulg
28th May, 2013 @ 02:26 am PDT

The idea is great, but as Paul points out, it's just not feasible for it to work unless the whole World subscribes, or some sort of ordnance is prescribed. The idea is similar to the double AA battery, so there is a way of getting a "standard" fitted for all cars. Possibly it needed to be modular, for example smaller cars working with 2 small batteries and bigger ones needing 3, that way all batteries can be just mass manufactured with the same specifications by all manufacturers.

Looking at how this was done before, we find that the common grounds between such global standards such as AA batteries (prescribed standards) or VHS tapes, BlueRay (subscribed standards) is that they were all invested in VERY heavily by mega-corporations. That is I think is the strategic problem of Better Place.

If Honda or Toyota stands behind mass-manufacturing swappable batteries and invests in major infrastructures, offering the technology as open source... or if ANSI steps in and denotes standards for all EV battery manufacturers to follow, then this dream vision has a chance.

Samer Helmy
28th May, 2013 @ 05:46 am PDT

I like the "on the road" battery swap out concept and I agree with the above comments.

My thoughts have been... You build an EV that has a 80 mile range battery built in and is chargeable at any 110 volt hook-up. This set-up works for commuting local short trips. For longer journeys, the EV owner purchases or rents an optional trailer that is basically a 250 - 300 mile range battery on wheels. It is not rechargeable at home, but a full charge can be maintained with an inexpensive "trickle charger". It hooks up to the EV with a standard bumper/receiver ball hitch. On a trip, the EV runs on the trailer and then uses the on board battery to get to the trailer swap-out station. At the end of the day, after 2 or 3 trailer swap-outs, the on board battery is brought back up to 80 miles at the motel and you're ready for another day of travel.

Two or three of the large national truck stops, (Loves, Petro, Pilot, Flying J, etc.), would be candidates for "swap out" stations. They operate 24/7 and have personnel to assist EV owners in the swap.

I know many will say, "Pulling a trailer is a pain in the arse". Well, to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, "If you're gonna save the planet and sh*t, you're gonna have sing louder"

Maverick62
28th May, 2013 @ 09:57 am PDT

Wow, this is sad news. Once again the automobile manufacturers and big oil win again. Follow the money...

I was super excited about this vision. If cars with desirable and quality design were produced so that the demand was adequate, the concept of changing the battery was exactly the same as we're all used to when we go to a service station: drive in, 5 or 10 minutes later drive out with more miles in the tank. Simple.

I wanted to do the same with ski boats...

I wonder if they spoke to Elon Musk of Tesla?

James Kelly
28th May, 2013 @ 02:10 pm PDT

I can change the battery on my drill in three seconds-they can't make a battery swap with millions of dollars? Typical management heavy shafting of the investors.

ZekeG
28th May, 2013 @ 02:59 pm PDT

ZekeG you can change the battery in your drill in 3 seconds only if you use the same brand battery as your drill. Just like cars try putting in a makita battery in a ryobi drill or vice versa. There are 30 or more cordless tools with 30 or more different batteries. The same brand may also use different style batteries in different model tools. They will not standardize just like auto manufactures don't.

tigerprincess
29th May, 2013 @ 11:44 am PDT

The idea of battery swapping is flawed. The consumer has no way of knowing that the battery he is getting will hold the same charge as the battery he is giving up. It is like LP bottle exchange but you cant tell if the bottle that you are receiving Is half, three quarters, or fully filled.

Slowburn
29th May, 2013 @ 01:21 pm PDT

If it runs on batteries it is a toy or a tool. Sorry no vehicle that uses chemical batteries will ever be an viable alternative.

Michael Mantion
29th May, 2013 @ 06:32 pm PDT

I've been actively involved in EV technology for a while now, also cooperated on some level with Better Place.

Firstly, let me point out, approx 30 years before commercial flights were available, a certain company went bankrupt trying to launch commercial flights. Comm.flying only became viable when everyone agreed that time saved with flights was considerable enough. It is my understanding that the timing was not yet right because the industries at that time did not recognize all the advantages. When we try to draw an analogy with Betterplace....

In the EV game people do not realize what the true benefits of vehicle-to-grid networks would be and what the true advantages for humanity are.

There are things which were not communicated to people well enough, although mr.Agassi was a great driving force and he has achieved much at Better Place. It is my opinion that if these were understood by people better, BP would have been more successful:

- EV's can not and will not replace ICE vehicles yet. For now, their place is in cities where daily commutes are shorter than half the average range of EV's. Bare in mind majority of private commute routes are city-based. Commercial or industry commutes are an entirely different game.

- EV vehicle-to-grid infrastructure should assist leveling the peak-load demand of power grids. The energy situation is dire, and the only way to store energy from renewable sources and feed it back into power grid when needed! would be batteries. But for this 1 battery in an EV with less than 10,000 charging cycles is not a solution. (no. of avg. charging cycl. is around 1.500 - 2.000) Prof Kempton of U.of Delaware is the pioneer of Vehicle-to-grid technology. Essentially when you don't need your EV it would be a part of the power grid, a sort of on-demand power source, ready to send energy to the power grid when it needed it at peak demand.

- impact of ICE on the environment with their 20-30% efficiency (electric engines above 90% effic), plethora of moving (and breakable) parts and all the exhaust is just too much. However, batteries don't grow on trees either, and there should be an incentive for renewable EV batt.charging systems SEPARATE from the power grid.

EV's are still a part of our future. I think what Betterplace and Renault-Nissan did shifted the game of the automotive industry into a new level. I followed major manufacturers as Betterplace was evolving. Before its conception almost no car manufacturer had an EV, now almost all do. That, is a great achievement! So, from my side: respect.

Vlado Milosevic
30th May, 2013 @ 02:22 am PDT

It may be better to purchase the vehicle separate from the battery and pay per use with the battery swapper worrying about battery life. To protect the swapper's investment, a PPA type of agreement may help stimulate investments into better battery tech.

Additionally, swappable batteries with constant monitoring data can help to advance research on better charging profiles not only at the station but also implemented as an add-on app for a vehicle's regenerative braking configuration (if applicable).

With monitoring of charging/discharging, temperature profiles, etc... following each battery, the predicting of useful output and managing insurance premiums may improve significantly.

This may also lower insurance premiums for auto insurers if car owners also lease the charging units from home as well. Or at least insurers require charging data to be maintained at a common source to minimize towing costs.

Batteries with lifespans beyond their typical charging cycle capacities would possibly fall into a secondary market offered at a discount and capitalized by users with shorter driving ranges.

What I hear is the range is usually dropped down to around 80% after 1500 to 4000 cycles depending on which type of lithium technology is used. But still useful!

Gary Richardson
31st May, 2013 @ 12:00 pm PDT

I'm an avid fan of the EV but I've never seen a battery swapping system a viable solution.

In my opinion it's all down to range and recharge times. And new I strongly believe new battery technology will provide this.

Just look at the following article, where they report recharge times in just a couple of minutes. Combine that with the already existing infrastructure of gas stations, just adding high power loading stations, and I think we have the solution.

http://www.gizmag.com/3d-microbattery/27162/

@Michael Mantion: Ever heard of Tesla Motors, they kind of proved that it's already a working solution.

Roomie
1st June, 2013 @ 07:39 pm PDT

Vrlo dobra stranica.

Ante Špoljarić
5th June, 2013 @ 05:18 am PDT
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