By on March 13, 2013

Pau hana means quitting time. Better Place is leaving the island state. Officially, it’s to “focus on its core markets in Israel and Denmark,” as the Star Advertiser says. Unofficially, it’s a retreat.

Better Place operated 77 charge spots with 154 charge points on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, serving some 700 customers. That’s around 10 customers per charge spots, not a rip roaring business.

Better Place sold the charge spots to OpConnect, a purveyor of charging solutions. First thing they’ll do is charge the stations to OpConnect technology.

Better Place is yet another great idea that falls on its face. Founder Shai Agassi believed the propaganda that there will be pure electric cars by the millions. His great idea: Swappable batteries. That means standard batteries. Agassi also should have asked the auto industry whether it wants to standardize on one battery.

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7 Comments on “Better Place Pau Hana In Hawaii...”

  • avatar

    Electric cars. Inevitable.

  • avatar

    Doubt it!

  • avatar

    “Agassi also should have asked the auto industry whether it wants to standardize on one battery.”

    This is how I’ve felt about Better Place’s strategy. They were about a decade late, which is how long it would have taken to standardize.

    But the problem is this – battery operated products (including the ones I develop) are designed around the battery because it is so large. And mfrs all build vehicles with different styles and purposes, so Better Place’s idea was doomed from the start.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Not that it matters much, but electricity in Hawaii is the most expensive per kwh in the United States. Lacking access to coal, natural gas or nukes, all electricity in Hawaii is generated by burning oil. So, whatever operating price advantage is claimed for electricity, it is diminished by the high cost of electricity to charge the battery. Of course, gasoline isn’t cheap either, for the same reason (there are one or two local refineries, IIRC), so maybe it all evens out.

    It’s also probably worth mentioning that, Hawaii being a series of islands, the opportunity to drive long distances doesn’t exist, further diminishing the attractiveness of exotically-fueled cars. Most likely the cost of fuel is a smaller percentage of the total cost of owning a car in Hawaii than it would be for owning a car on the mainland.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that electric cars make a lot of sense for a place like Hawaii. As an added bonus, if they remain grid-connected when parked using a smart charger, the possibility exists to use their batteries as a buffer to absorb any excess ‘green’ energy being produced there.

      One of the things that most people don’t know about many renewable energy sources (like wind and solar) is that they cannot be controlled like conventional generation plants – when the wind blows, the turbines deliver energy into the grid whether there is any demand for that energy or not. This can cause system instability and in a worst-case scenario, power outages. This is much more of a problem in a small-scale grid such as exists on each island.

      So to me, electric cars plus renewable energy sources in Hawaii are a perfect combination. And as you stated, the shorter driving distances and warm but not hot climate is just perfect for maximum range and battery life.

  • avatar

    Living in Honolulu, I see a good number of Nissan Leafs. I think this is simply a case where Better Place was outcompeted by the other offerings. I’ve also seen a Tesla Model S here, but just one.

    • 0 avatar

      Same here in Kauai. It is nice to see the number of Leafs around. Electric vehicles are the perfect solution for Kauai and it’s constant traffic pollution.

      The island is so small, you could circumnavigate the entire thing on one charge. It’s almost impossible to run out of battery on the island, and there’s charging stations everywhere.

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