Ever since Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi opened his Better Place test drive center near Tel Aviv, back in February 2010, more and more Israelis have had the chance to not only find out about Agassi’s unique electric car battery swap concept, but also a chance to drive one, as I did in April last year. I was very impressed by the quietness of the ride, as well as how much pick up the engine had; describing the acceleration to be “like being in a rocket”. This week Better Place announced pricing for its first models.
It has taken a while to reach this point, and although the infrastructure for recharging the car’s lithium ion battery pack, as well as exchanging a run down battery for a freshly charged one is still not really in place, it appears that the Better Place car will finally be ready to go on sale, as early as mid July.
These details were released on May 15 by Better Place, and local papers in Israel talked about the company’s usage pricing policy, that will be based on how much a person drives per month.
The monetary details dealing with the price of the car itself, including government tax reductions for purchasing a car that will hopefully cause less air pollution if many people drive them, works out as follows: The price of the “basic model” car, a Renault Fluence EV, without the monthly service package, is NIS 122,900 or US$ 35,623 at current exchange rates.
A more luxurious model with leather seats and other luxuries (like a special sound system, etc.) will cost the purchaser NIS 129,900 of US$37,652. The basic car model is not “stripped down” by any means, however; and will include a computerized driving and energy management system, a GPS navigation system, online hook-up to a call center, a four-year manufacturer’s warranty, split climate control air conditioning, cruise control, a hook-up for mobile devices, rain sensor, and automatic lights.
Both models will have a special computerized automatic transmission to make driving one of these cars an almost effortless undertaking.
Electric car power package
The “service package”, besides giving a four year comprehensive insurance policy on the car, will be based on how much road usage will be done by the drivers, and will begin at NIS 1,090 (including VAT) for up to 20,000 kilometers a year, NIS 1,300 for up to 23,000 kilometers a year, NIS 1,470 for up to 26,000 kilometers a year, and NIS 1,599 for up to 30,000 kilometers a year.
It remains to be seen whether these cars will be a hit with the general public, since the maximum cruising range between charges or battery “swapping” is only about 135 km. This distance is also depending on whether the car is driving in the daytime or at night, and what accessories are being used (especially the AC).
The first real commercial debut for the Better Place electric car concept was back in February in Copenhagen where the car hit the streets commercially, despite only a few battery exchange stations and recharging posts installed.
The “jury” is still out in that country, as car testing authorities there say that the “forced” tie into the Battery Place service network is less desirable than being able to recharge the car’s battery pack on one’s home electrical current.
We’ll all be a bit wiser about this project’s potential when the actual sales launch does take place, together with the appropriate fan fare and media hoopla. Who knows?
The Israeli public may actually fall in love with the car and its concept, like many did for hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. The real “proof of the pudding” though will be how much used models will sell for a few years down road. In fact, it might be better to wait a few years and then buy a used one, if one wants to really save money!
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