EV battery-swapping company goes to a better place
By Darren Quick
May 27, 2013
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.”