Better Place Electric Car Spotting

maurice better place electric car chargingSeeing a prototype Better Place EV car is a lot different than the real thing on the road. Photo by Maurice Picow

More than five months have passed since Shai Agassi’s Better Place electric car company put its first 100 Renault Fluence EV on  Israeli roads.  The event was covered with a certain amount of local fanfare and only afterwards was it revealed that a number of these cars were sent to major rental car companies for their use and not to private buyers. That was obvious to be expected, as the company’s EV car debut in the country where the Better Place electric car idea began is still in its trial period.

Financial losses during the first year of operation for any new venture is also something not out of the ordinary; and when it was later reported that the company has reported revenue losses of millions from slow sales of these cars,  this must also be taken in stride by the company who has just begun to establish its battery recharge and replacement network in a few selected locations if the country.

After having visited the Better Place Test Drive and Education Center just north of Tel Aviv in April, 2010, I still had reservations about the idea of a country-wide EV car network succeeding in Israel.

These feelings have been influenced by issues involving electric cars not only in a small country like Israel but in other countries like Denmark; where Better Place’s battery charging and replacement stations have still had only a marginal impact on the EV market potential in Danmark.

In the aftermath of last January’s launch of 100 Renault Fluence EV Cars in Israel, I had still yet to see one of these cars actually driving down the roads; and have closely looked at every Renault Fluence car on the roads to see whether they were  running on electricity and not fossil fuel.

Last week I saw my first car on the road in an upper middle class community of Ramat Hasharon, located a few kilometers north of Tel Aviv. Upon pulling up to a traffic light, I found myself behind another Renault Fluence salon car; but this time I noticed something different. Embossed on the car’s rear bumper was the Better Place logo and in the left rear corner was printed: 100% Electric. The other difference is that when the light changed, the car was almost noiseless, except for a slight whirring sound. I didn’t get a change to talk to the car’s driver.

Although the Better Place EV cars that have been sold so far have been to buyers in the country’s central region, due to the needed charging infrastructure being developed there first, one person, Dave Rose who lives in Israel’s Galilee region has purchased one of the cars and was interviewed recently by Channel 10 News.

Rose said that he averages anywhere from 80 to 100 km between charges, depending on time of day and road driving conditions. Rose added that he hopes the Better Place infrastructure will  become developed enough so he can “drive the car all to way to Eilat.”

When asked what influenced him to purchase the car, he told Channel 10 that the motivation  was influenced a lot by wanting to do his part to improve air pollution conditions by using such a car. He added that in his previous gasoline driven car, he spent an average of NIS 2,000  ($530) per month on fuel costs. With the Better Place car, he presently spends NIS 1,000 per month (half the fuel) on a monthly service “membership” charge that includes the electricity used to recharge the car’s battery pack.

Spending this much on monthly electricity usage appears to indicate the number of kilometers driven by this owner isn’t a large amount; and with consumer electricity costs due to increase significantly in the near future, Rose’s monthly membership costs are also likely to rise proportionally.

In light of all of the above, the progress of the Better Place EV car network in both Israel and elsewhere will continue to be a matter of “wait and see” observations for this writer.

Read more more on Better Place progress in Israel and elsewhere:

Better Place Puts 100 Cars on Israeli Roads

Better Place Electric Car Network Begins in Israel

Better Place Denmark Hopes to Get Electric Car Venture (Finally) Going in October


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9 thoughts on “Better Place Electric Car Spotting”

  1. David Rose says:

    At every Switching Station there is a compressor to check tire pressure just like at every gas station. During one of my switches at Hadera, the attendant there even offered to check the tire pressure for us. It is important to note that the tire (tyre) pressure in the Fluence ZE is higher (38 bar) than I was used to in an ICE car (32 bar). I think it has to do with the weight of the battery, but you should have no trouble checking pressure during your next switch. BTW 7 minutes includes all the “chit – chat”. My switches (all 7 until now) took no more than 5 minutes, max!

  2. Smiles says:

    We did our first battery switch last night. Baruch Hashem, it took 7 minutes total. Moshe the attendant even spoke english. When he said go to the orange cone in Hebrew , He saw that I didnt understand , so he went into perfect English.
    The question for David rose is where do you go to check pressure on your tires and to put air in them?
    Maybe there is a a gadget to buy somewhere so we never have to go to gas station?

  3. David Rose says:

    Although you used my name, some of the facts were not as they should be. I was interviewed not by Channel 10, but the HOT news channel. I actually average more than the 80 – 100 km that you mentioned, it is more like an average of 125 km. By October of this year, the entire Better Place Battery Switching Station network will be in operation from Katrin in the Golan to Eilat in the south. You misrepresented the monthly subscription fee. It has nothing to do with my electrical use, rather it reflects the monthly fee subscription fee for a 30K Km x 4 year subscription fee. This means that over the next 4 years I will drive 120K Km at a cost of 0.44NIS per Km ($0.11 per 0.621 mile). In fact because of this agreement and the Better Place pricing method, I will not be subject to electricity cost increases over the period of the agreement. By skipping the part about battery switching you skipped the most innovative part. Since May 21, 2012 I have switched batteries 7 times. On June 5, 2012 an announcement was made by Better Place to its customers that the first 4 of 40 Battery Switching Stations will be open on a 24/7 basis. This innovation rids any fear of range anxiety or charge anxiety from the EV driving experience, and makes it similar, calmer and better than driving an ICE car. You can be sure that Better Place will succeed in Israel. I and like-minded pioneers will see to it happening!

  4. shai says:

    Just wanted to correct a small misconception inyour post….
    The subscription fee mentioned (1000NIS) includes the home electricity charge, which we at Better Place pay instead of the customer. Our members aer not exposed to fluctuations in electricity cost simply because they don’t pay for electricity. They are not exposed to oil price changes…simply because they left that habit behind while saving tons of money and pollution.
    With more than 300 cars on the road, you should get used to spotting electric cars all over the country (…and someone did get to Eilat tis week 🙂

  5. Amir says:

    Maurice, You’re going to see a lot more EVs in the coming weeks in Israel including in the periphery. Also, the monthly cost is not only for electricity. It includes the infrastructure, battery lease and electricity. Electricity is probably the least of the three costs. Once the infrastructure is set up, the marginal cost for each additional car is low, battery prices have dropped by 10-14% every year and are expected to fall some more so even if the electricity rises, there is not likely to be an increase in the cost of the subscription. Also, many customers such as myself bought a mileage package at a discount which guarantees no cost increase in the near future.

  6. Smiles says:

    Yes they installed a post. They actually installed one , then switched it once then switched it again! The post works great . Send me your email and I will invite you to ramat bet Shemesh to see it. I don’t know of any open battery switch stations. It takes me 60 to 70 per net of battery to go
    Round trip bet Shemesh to jerusalem.
    I would like to know where the 4 switch open stations are. We have 500 km
    On car so far
    ברכה. והצלחה

  7. Maurice says:

    Hey that’s great to hear! Just out of curiosity, when you bought the car, and the monthly Better Place service agreement, did they come out and install a charging post at your home? Also, when you drive to either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, are there recharging and battery pack replacement stations already in place (besides the BP main location at Pi Glilot)?

  8. Smiles says:

    We have a fluence ez. Put 400 km on it so far in a week. Live in ramat bet shemesh. It works so far so good. More pickup than Toyota corolla

  9. SWP MEDIA says:

    Really great article! Electric car inspiration! Have you heard what they are saying about the future of the Chevy Volt & Nissan Leaf?

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