Quick fix: A Better Place battery-swapping station in Israel, where putting a fresh battery in an electric car takes about as long as filling a gas tank.
While some skepticism still surrounds the venture, two car leasing companies in Israel have recently signed on.”We think switchable EV is more appealing … for the consumer because it solves the range issue and makes the cars much more economic,” says Anthony Bernbaum, the global head of direct principal investments at HSBC, which has so far sunk $150 million into the company. “We believe switchable EV will be the more enduring business model.”
Most automakers are working on hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles using proprietary battery packs that don’t pop out. That’s left Better Place as the only large commercial venture betting on battery swapping. “The biggest surprise I have in the last four years is that we were left to our own to build a four-year advantage,” says Agassi.
Competitors could emerge if Better Place finds commercial success. Agassi says the company plans to use the money it has raised to set up networks in more European countries, possibly France and Germany. That means plans for launches in Hawaii, China, and California will likely be put on the back burner for the time being.
“Everybody is waiting for them to prove the model,” says Sam Jaffe, an analyst in renewable and distributed energy strategies at IDC Energy Strategies. “There are a lot of people following what they’re doing very closely.”