Another One Bites The Dust: Better Place Bankrupt

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Better Place “filed a motion in an Israeli court to wind up the company, bringing an end to a venture whose battery charging network had aimed to boost electric car sales,” Reuters says.

Better Place, founded by former SAP executive (he never was SAP CEO, as often reported,) said it had the answer to three big problems of the electric vehicle: Charge time, range, and cost of the expensive battery. The idea was to swap the battery quickly, in many swap stations, and with batteries that are financed like a smartphone on a plan. Good idea, but it did not work.

The idea missed two important ingredients: Supply and demand. Sales of electric vehicles did not take off as hoped, and car suppliers did not want to standardize on batteries that can be changed like a AA cell. Better Place always talked up its “partnership” with Renault, which supplied the first batch of Fluence cars with a swappable battery. That partnership remained one-sided. Off the record, Renault executives kept their distance from the project and refused to mass market a car with a swappable battery.

Better Place said it wanted to move 100,000 of the Fluence ZE in Israel and Denmark by 2016. However, “just over a thousand cars are on the road in Israel and Denmark, the first two countries where Better Place began operating,” says Reuters.

Founder Shai Agassi was removed as CEO in October, his successor was replaced just four months later. Rapid changes at the top of a startup usually is a sign of impending passing of the company.

Founded in 2008, Better Place attracted $850 million in investments, which can be written off by names like Israel Corp., HSBC and Morgan Stanley. In a November earnings report published by Israel Corp, which owns about 30 percent of Better Place, it was said the company had an accumulated deficit of $561.5 million with more losses expected.

Coda, Fisker, A123, now Better Place: This hallowed publication always has been a bit doubtful when it came to the prospects of battery-operated locomotion. This hesitation is not driven by ideology. I am on record that I am strictly nondenominational when it comes to powertrains. I won’t argue if a two-cylinder fueled by woodchips is found better for the job than a turbine. But if someone tries to sell me on a car that takes eight hours to fill up, a car that needs an eight hour fill-up again when it barely got going, a car that costs double of what a comparable OTHER car would cost, then I will be a very reluctant customer.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 27, 2013

    Better Place is bankrupt, as it should be. Bertel - I don't get the logic of lumping lousy companies & products like Coda, Fisker, A123, and Better Place in with successful ones like Nissan and Tesla. This is not an "EV" issue, it's a matter of execution. EVs can enjoy success in their niche.

  • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Jun 02, 2013

    Today on "I Told You This Day One"... It was an untenable con-job with a huckster at the helm. That everyone couldn't see that from his first radio interview (in the RF days when I told you he was headed for BK) causes me to lose more faith in humanity.

  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂
  • VoGhost Matt, I'm curious why you write that inventory levels are low at 74 days. Typically, 60 days is the benchmark for normal inventory.