By on February 8, 2013

Better Place is shutting the doors of its Australian and American operations, and will concentrate on its Danish and Israeli divisions. The New York Times reported the news just days after Evan Thornley, head of Better Place Australia, left his post as CEO after just three months on the job.

Commeter Autobraz linked to this informative (and politically heavy-handed) article written by an Israeli expatriate over at Daily Kos regarding Better Place and some of the shenanigans that occurred since its inception. Rather than make a poor attempt at summarizing it, I highly recommend reading it for some added context. One example that sticks out is ex-founder Shai Agassi’s semi-symbolic ordering of 100,000 Renault Fluence EVs with swappable batteries. Meanwhile, Nissan has sold about 40,000 Leafs globally.

The author likes Agassi to Steve Jobs and BP to Apple, noting that without Agassi, the driving force behind BP is gone, and the company will likely follow suit. Arguably, the two also share a similar “reality distortion field” – a phenomenon that may work in consumer electronics, but rarely succeeds in the auto industry.


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10 Comments on “Better Place Shutters American, Australian Operations...”

  • avatar

    I hope I’m not the only one who has absolutely no idea what “Better Place” is.

    • 0 avatar

      Summarized from Wikipedia:

      Better Place is a venture-backed international company. It is formally based in Palo Alto, California, but the bulk of its planning and operations has been steered from Israel, where both its founder Shai Agassi and its chief investors reside. Better Place develops and sells battery-charging and battery-switching services for electric vehicles.

      Better Place implements a business model wherein customers enter into subscriptions to purchase driving distance similar to the mobile telephone industry where customers contract for minutes of airtime.

      The Better Place approach enables manufacturing and sales of different electric cars separately from their standardized batteries[27] like the way that petrol cars are sold separately from their fuel. Petrol fuel is not usually purchased upfront, but instead is bought a few times a month when the gas tank needs filling; similarly, the Better Place monthly payment covers electric “fuel” costs including battery, daily charging and battery swaps. Better Place will allow customers to pay incrementally for battery costs including electric power, battery life, degradation, warranty issues, maintenance, capital cost, quality, technology advancement and anything else related to the battery. The per-distance fees cover battery pack leasing, charging and swap infrastructure, purchasing sustainable electricity, profits, and the cost of investor capital.[28] All battery concerns burden only Better Place who then bundles the costs and bills their customers monthly for providing all of the infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      Ron B.

      I live in Australia and the passing of Better place went unheralded .In fact the opening of it’s office went largely unnoticed too. Who on earth needs yet another blood sucking scheme to milk consumers? Buy credits like a mobile phone ? Give me a break! ,people hate the charges involved in phones and I’m old enough to remember when having a phone cost so little that the bill was hardly worth noting. Just like owning a car once was …
      Also,a lot of these people who come up with these scams believe the spin coming from Australia’s Labor government about the carbon tax and the big wealth generated by the mining boom.
      Well… only a tiny percentage of Australia’s Mining revenues come to the country ,mostly in the form of wages. The big tree miners are all international companies with no base here.
      These big three miners are closing a lot of their operations here because of those wages ($3000 per week for a mine worker…) and the carbon tax*. Iron ore costs the chinese customers $180 per tonne, Mongolian ore is $40 per tonne.
      Then there is the misconception that because the labor party is in coalition with the minority greens , that the whole country is green minded. We aren’t. Global warming is a subject for derision here and we see all green policies as being on the fringes mostly being pro eugenic concepts from prewar Germany .
      There is a Nissan dealer near here who was attempting to sell a Leaf.. They had a few lookers but that was it… No sales.
      Under labor,because of the carbon tax, our power bills have risen 100% and are tipped to rise another 30% this year Because of the carbon tax . So why would anyone buy something that is both expensive to buy and expensive to run and service?
      BP was a scam stillborn.

      * the basic idea of the carbon tax is too make basic commodities such as coal and oil so expensive that people will not buy the products made from these basics . Which is everything in Australia ,we have coal fire power stations. The demand will drop and thus save the planet . The tax rises each year until 2020 when it becomes a “carbon trading scheme”. This will enable those who wish to sell Australia Carbon credits the opportunity to make money. Labor says several billions have been slated to buy credits after 2020 from places such as Nigeria…

  • avatar

    What kind of platform is that car on? Is it raising it off the ground?

  • avatar

    What’s disheartening is that I think Agassi had an excellent idea but the “Steve Jobs complex” put it all to waste.

  • avatar

    I’m saddened to see this concept spiraling down this way. I was knocked out by the idea when I first read of it, but it seems that mismanagement and the enormity of the infrastructure build out leaves the plan unworkable.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    The Daily Koss piece is extremely interesting.

    I had read about BP and Agassi about 5 years ago in a flattering piece on Wired magazine. At the time I believed that BP’s battery swap idea was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    However, reading this piece and others, it appears that it was mostly smoke and mirrors.

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