With Better Place "Wind Down" in US, EV Battery-Swapping Fades
By all appearances, EV battery-swap specialist Better Place is in trouble, and as a result, any hope of EV battery swapping in large global markets are dashed. Last week, the company fired its second CEO after only 100 days in service, and announced that it will "wind down" operations in the U.S. and Australia, in order to focus its strategy and efforts in Denmark and Israel.
This leaves Better Place operating in two small markets, where as the company puts it, a "complete infrastructure is in place and commercial operations are fully underway." Yet, Better Place has spent about $500 million to date, and has a very small customer base: about 500 customers in Israel, and 500 customers in Denmark (200 of which have cars that don't allow batteries to be swapped).
The company also lacks the leadership and fundraising ability of Shai Agassi, its dynamic founder. He was let go in late September, after an apparent disagreement over company direction with Better Place's board of directors. Last week, Gigaom reported that Agassi still believes in the battery swap model. “I don’t have an issue with the model, I had a problem with the company,” Agassi told Gigaom on the sidelines of the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.
Dan Cohen, who became the third CEO of Better Place last week, put a positive spin on the new strategy. "We are now focusing on realizing the full potential of what we have built," he said. "That means concentrating our resources and energy in the near term, on Denmark and Israel."
But in the U.S., the picture for EV swapping is bleak, in part becase hundreds of DC Quick Charge locations are finally being installed (many of them offering free electricity) in key American markets. The Quick Chargers cost a fraction of what battery swapping requires to install (around $3 million per swap station). And there is no sign of car companies stepping up to create EV models suited to battery swapping. With Better Place pulling out of the U.S., all the evidence points to the end of EV battery swapping as a viable solution at least for a few years, if not forever.
New to EVs? Start here
What Is An Electric Car?
Before we get going, let's establish basic definitions.
A Quick Guide to Plug-in Hybrids
Some plug-in cars have back-up engines to extend driving range.
Electric Cars Pros and Cons
EVs are a great solution for most people. But not everybody.
Eight Rules of Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette
Thou shalt charge only when necessary. And other rules to live by.
Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
Eight Factors Determining Total Cost of Ownership of an Electric Car
EVs get bad rap as expensive. Until you look at TCO.
Federal and Local Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
Guide to Buying First Home EV Charger
You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.
Electric Car Utility Rate Plans: Top Five Rules
With the right utility plan, electric fuel can be dirt cheap.
The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks
If you plan to charge in public, you'll want to sign up for charging network membership (or two).