Can Captain Sunshine Save Better Place?

Ketura3 solar field by Arava Power Co.

Better Place’s sudden bankruptcy announcement only a week ago left more than 900 electric car owners in Israel uncertain about the future of the cars they bought. But Captain Sunshine, a solar energy pioneer in Israel says he might be able to help save Better Place.

The plausible idea for revamping the company is being brought forward by American-Israeli entrepreneur, Yosef Abramowitz ,who co-founded and heads the Arava Power Company.

Arava Power creates electricity by solar energy power plants. Abramowitz, also known as “Captain Sunshine” submitted to the Better Place liquidator an offer to assume the company’s assets, according to the JPost: “In the interest of making sure Start Up Nation is not stalled by the current failure of Better Place.”

His reason for doing so appears to have a lot to do with Israel’s reputation as being a prime ‘start up nation’ within the framework of technological innovation. The article also quoted Abramowitz as saying that “We must support the current and future drivers of electric vehicles in Israel.”

He also compared the love Better Place car owners had for their vehicles in the same way early adopters of Apple computers felt.

To date there are a number of contingency plans to keep Better Place from being liquidated and completely dissolved.

One of the primary obligations of those chosen to be involved in liquidating Better Place’s group of companies is to at least keep the Better Place  service network  in operation for the benefit of car owners. Obviously, this involves providing electricity to recharge the batteries oo the cars that are being driven in both Israel (over 900) and in Denmark (around 400).

Saving the ill-fated electric car network company may be sooner said than done, however.

When the Better Place management made their now historic announcement on May 26, the company had less than $9 million in cash (barely enough to cover one month’s operation expenses) against more than $400 million on total debt.

While Better Place car owners generally say they love driving their cars, keeping even a shell company in operation for the benefit of less than 1,400 cars (including those in Denmark) is not really feasible.

Abramowitz’s Arava Power Company was responsible for Israel’s first on-grid, 4.95-megawatt solar field in Kibbutz Ketura two years ago.

He has also launched a Jerusalem-based investment firm with two other partners, Ed Hofland of Kibbutz Ketura, David Rosenblatt of New Jersey.

Called Energiya Global Capital, the firm is working towards establishing solar fields in developing nations all over the world. His sister in law Sarah Silverstein has backed one of his campaigns.

In order to determine the seriousness of both the Israeli government and of course Better Place car owners regarding carrying on with the already in place Better Place service network, Abramowitz wants to have some kind of assurance from the Israeli government that they, as well as the EV car owners themselves, are interested in the project continuing.

“I need to get an indication from the government that they are willing to put in place certain basic benefits to show they want to encourage electric car use in the State of Israel,” he told the JPost.

The idea of using solar energy to provide the electricity for the cars. stems from the same idea of weaning people away from the “dirty grids” using coal and heavy fuel oils which still provide much of fuel to power the electrical power plants in Israel and many other countries.

While he is not really sure if this venture will work, Abramowitz feels that “it is in the national strategic interest of the Israeli government to encourage the use of electric cars.”

Read more on Better Place’s fall:
Uncertain Future for Better Place EV Car Owner: Not Stranded Yet
Israel’s Better Place EV Company Dies and Files for Bankruptcy
Renault Gives up on Israel’s Swappable Electric Car Batteries

Solar Field photo: Wikipedia

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4 thoughts on “Can Captain Sunshine Save Better Place?”

  1. Ra'anan says:

    I have a feeling that successful ex-start up man Naftali Bennet could & would help push something through. We were cheering Shai Agassi the whole time, yet I find it strange that he didn’t target a younger clientele w/a less expensive car since, I think, younger people are more flexible. The model that we occasionally see on the streets in Israel looks more like an expensive luxury car. Agassi should also have been more flexible w/swappable batteries. Now look at California’s Telsa electric car. They are offering FREE electric stations across the USA! Telsa was also top-rated as Consumer Reports “best car ever!” And Telsa is a brand, new company! I feel like Agassi just barely messed being the next thing in ecars & I admire Yosef Abramowitz’s jumping into the fray for hopefully ideological reasons that can greatly benefit the planet.

    1. Tesla is not that new, and Abramowitz is not a media shy person let’s say.

  2. Maurice says:

    Solar energy should be Israel’s top energy priority; and not bringing up natural gas from the Med. I guess the bottom line is that this gas can be sold to purchasers abroad and solar energy can’t .

  3. jerry996 says:

    Captain Sunshine’s proposal is a fitting legacy for Shai Agassi. I remember him saying in one of his many talks and question-and-answer sessions that he wanted electricity for electric cars to come from solar, wind, and other renewable sources.

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