Better Place, an organization that invented, installs, and operates electric car battery swapping stations in only 4 minutes has decided to shut down its facilities in Australia and America so that it can focus on its operations in Israel and Denmark. This does not bode well for the innovative EV infrastructure company.
There were signs from December last year that their Australian operations were on the outs. Evan Thornley stepped down from his position after only three months after he replaced the previous CEO, Shai Agassi, who was the founder of Better Place. Shai Agassi was fired amid massive financial losses and a lack of focus.
According to Daily Kos, Better Place convinced only one electric vehicle manufacturer, Renault to partner with them to offer only one electric car with a switchable battery pack. Agassi pledged to buy 100,000 battery-swappable EVs from Renault, but so far they’ve only sold a few hundred in Better Place’s home market of Israel. It wasn’t so long ago that Better Place was valued at more than $2 billion. Now it seems like they’re on the outs after perhaps too many ambitious projects.
Project Better Place was a promising concept because it can enable electric cars to travel long distances and “recharge” in a short amount of time. Conventional electric cars take 3 to 8 hours to charge, so if a Nissan Leaf-like vehicle runs out of its 70 mile range per charge, it is stranded unless the owner is willing to sit with it for up to 8 hours to recharge it so they can get back home. If the vehicle has a switchable battery pack, then assuming that swapping stations are ubiquitous enough, the owner could be on their merry way for another 70 miles after spending 4 minutes swapping the battery.
Unfortunately, Better Place has not found many customers willing to sign up for its subscription-like battery swapping plans, where you buy X amount of miles per month. Better Place will focus on Denmark and Israel for now, where the more dense populations and smaller driving distances are more conducive to EV ownership. No word on what’s happening with their Japanese projects.
The U.S. and Australia are just too big to fit Better Place’s business model. Will the unique EV infrastructure company find success for its business model elsewhere though?