Better Place, the Israeli company that planned to revolutionise electric car ownership by offering battery swap technology, has filed for bankruptcy.
It seemed like a good idea: take the cost of batteries out of the cost of buying an electric car and instead charge EV owners to use ‘Battery Swap’ stations where depleted batteries could be swapped for fully charged ones in the time it takes to fill an ICE car with petrol. But it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong.
Better Place – which partnered with Renault in 2009 to make the battery swap technology viable – has failed to find anyone to add to the $750 million already involved in the project and has filed for bankruptcy.
The plan was to build battery swap stations around the world – starting in Israel, Denmark, Australia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Hawaii, Ontario and Japan – and Better Place reckoned they would flog 100,000 Renault Fleunce EV by 2016, all using battery swaps at Better Place. In the end, they sold just 1,000 in Israel.
It was a bold plan to take away range anxiety for EV owners, cut up-front cost and allow a ‘recharge’ to happen as quickly as a top up of petrol in an ICE car, but car buyers weren’t convinced.
Renault has walked away from the partnership now Better Place has filed for bankruptcy but has said they will still provide warranty and service for the Fluence EVs, although owners will now have to start plugging in at home and restricting their range now they can no longer swap their batteries for a new, fully charged, set.
It’s the end of another EV dream, but we do wonder if Tesla – newly flush with cash – will look to pick up some of the pieces of Better Place for pennies in the pound to offer Battery swaps to Tesla owners?