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EV battery swap company Better Place files for liquidation

26 May 2013

Better Place, a high-profile developer and proponent of a battery switch model for electric vehicles (earlier post), filed a motion with the Lod District Court in Israel to ask for the dissolution of the company and the appointment of a temporary liquidator.

In its motion the company stated that in light of its failure to raise additional funds and in the absence of sufficient resources for the continued operation of the business, the company is asking for the court’s assistance in protecting the rights of its employees, customers and creditors.

This is a difficult day for all of us. We have come a long way in order to bring about a global vision. From the start, Better Place was a breakthrough for the infrastructure of the electric car industry and successfully completed the development of its technology and infrastructure. Israel was the first place in which an electrical car could travel without limit.

Unfortunately, after a year’s commercial operation, it was clear to us that despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming.

Against that background, the most recent fundraising round was not successful. In recent months, the management of the company did all that it could to keep the business operating. Today, in the light of our obligation to our staff, customers and creditors, we are applying to the court for the appointment of a temporary liquidator.

The management is requesting the voluntary liquidator once appointed to decide as quickly as possible to award compensation to customers and staff and maintain the functioning of the network.

—Better Place CEO Dan Cohen

In an interview with Israeli business daily Globes, Cohen said that the liquidator will have to decide the issue of disposition of batteries in customer cars; in the Better Place model, the customer owns the car, but not the battery. “Ownership of the car is different for each customer, and it’s true that the customer doesn’t own the battery. This is the first thing that the liquidator will have to examine, and it’s hard to give an answer now,” Cohen told Globes.

Better Place had raised more than $750 million in the four years after its founding in 2007, and by November 2011, had a valuation of $2.25 billion (post money valuation on a fully diluted basis). In August 2012, the company secured a €40-million (US$50-million) loan from the European Investment Bank, marking the first credit facility from a financial institution for the company. (Earlier post.)

Better Place apparently had been struggling since last fall, with the resignation of founder Shai Agassi in October 2012 (earlier post); the subsequent departure a few months later of Evan Thornley, who took over from Agassi (earlier post); and the winding down of operations in North America and Australia to focus on Denmark and Israel (earlier post).

In a statement issued announcing the filing for liquidation, Better Place said that over the past six months, management had made fundamental changes in the company, focused its strategy, goals and markets and at the same time had continued to seek additional financing for the business and secure additional models to supplement its current offer.

Despite significant efforts over that time frame, the company said, revenues are still insufficient to cover operating costs, and in the light of the continued negative cash flow position, the Board has decided that it has no option but to seek to make this application to the Courts for an orderly liquidation of the company.

This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies. While he was able with partners and investors to overcome multiple challenges to demonstrate that it was possible to deliver a technological solution that would fulfill that vision. Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome. The technical challenges we overcame successfully, but the other obstacles we were not able to overcome, despite the massive effort and resources that were deployed to that end.

The most important thing of all was that the intention was the right one. The purpose and concept of the business was to deliver a positive change in the world in which we live. We know that there is no certainty in any venture. It requires daring, courage, determination and resources in order to turn a venture into a sustainable industry.

The vision is still valid and important and we remain hopeful that eventually the vision will be realized for the benefit of a better world. However, Better Place will not be able to take part in the realization of this vision.

—Better Place Board of Directors

May 26, 2013 in Batteries, Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (58) | TrackBack (0)

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Another broken bulb in the bright lights of Hollywood.

When http://www.israellycool.com/2012/08/20/better-place-distance-dash/ Shai Agassi drove 715 miles through Israel in a day last summer, his dream seemed in place.

Is the "cell phone" billing model bad, how much extra EV expense is battery switching, why was most the money( Israel Corp) from oil, was it mismanaged, was Agassi's leaving an impact like if Musk had left Tesla in 2009, why would Israel want to remain dependent on Arab oil, how big an EV domino is this, ..

Guess Tesla will rethink future battery-switching.

The market of EV is not mature enough for battery switching, and I am not so sure if it is such great idea when you think of it in the detail

It's doubtful that "gas like" 5 minute EV battery recharging is possible soon. Recharge time was the 1% from perfect 'Consumer Reports' noted.

First, battery expense. Second, rate of power expense(super capacitor buffer?).

Which leaves battery switching.

"Recharge time was the 1% from perfect 'Consumer Reports' noted[on the Tesla Model S]."

I'm with Treehugger. I just never thought it was a realistic idea in the first place. Too many details just don't fit (different types of batteries, inventory issues, standardization, etc).

Never understood why they thought it would work.

Better Place was too big an idea. Agassi did a great job selling the concept but follow through counts more.

Fisker did a good job selling the concept but management is more important. If you miss deadlines, don't have the right partners or the organization is lacking, it will show.

Another Ponzi scheme takes the money from investors who fail to do due diligence.

'Better Place' was not even a good idea. BEV would only be a good idea in a world of depleted resources where only the rich enjoy the freedom of private transportation.

I freely admit I liked the idea when I first heard about it but as time went on I started to see the same problems DaveD pointed out.

EV batteries are large, and must be designed specifically for the vehicle. That would mean a custom battery for EV model, leading to the inventory problems that Treehugger mentioned.

There was never a chance that car manufacturers would settle for a standardised battery under the control of a 3rd party.

Harder things have been done than agreeing on battery dimensions and voltage.

EV batteries, even tires, could use more standardization.

Maybe Tesla can acquire the IP of Better Place for a song, and use it to roll out a cheaper EV?

One of Better Place's successes was, IIRC, a taxi-service demo in Japan.  People would hail a Better Place taxi just to go through the battery-swap process.  One obvious place for this is NYC, and the obvious vehicle is the Tesla Model X.  Using battery-swap, the vehicle could be kept in service nearly 24/7 while eliminating two of the plagues of large cities, noise and air emissions.

To me, the only way battery swap would ever make sense is with a large, standardized fleet like the NYC taxi system.

I don't have faith in any kind of battery standardization for many years to come, if ever. Not for a whole battery pack at least. Hopefully for individual cells or even smaller modules of batteries that could be combined to make a full pack. But considering the different sizes, shapes, placement in the vehicle, voltages, cooling needs, etc....I just can't see it in public vehicle and swapping the entire pack.
And if you consider the extra inventory you would have to keep on hand and/or the rapid charging you'd have to doon the batteries to have them ready to be swapped back in....you might as well go for level 3 chargers and skip all the complexity.

For taxis the easy way to have no range worries in this heavy use and also zero emissions is to use fuel cells.

Whatever may be the case for more general private use, fuel cells suit this application extremely well.

Since much of their fuelling would be done at their base, hydrogen infrastructure concerns pretty well disappear.

The cost of the vehicle of around $50k in 2015 is also much less of an issue for taxis where a higher cost is acceptable.

I am not surprised that the venture failed but I would not consider it a Ponsi scheme. Maybe some one can buy the intellectual property and use it for a fixed base taxi or delivery service. However, if the Chevy Spark EV can achieve 80% charge in 20 minutes and technology continues to improve, maybe the concept and the complexity it entails is not needed.

"It's doubtful that "gas like" 5 minute EV battery recharging is possible soon."

It's not needed.

Once we get EVs with 175-200 mile ranges we will need rapid charging only on long trips.

Imagine a rapid charging system where each charger has three power cords. Three vehicles can be charged in sequence.

You drive up to an empty space, plug in, and go eat. Something that you'd likely do if driving a gasmobile. Difference is, you'd be getting a fill-up while eating rather than standing by the pump. Since you wouldn't tie up the charger you could spend more than 20 minutes eating.

On an all day, 500 mile drive you'd perhaps stop once for a meal. And once to pee/stretch your legs/walk your dog/check your messages. I doubt many people would find that off-putting, especially considering how much money they would be saving over driving a gasmobile.

Battery swapping is most likely to play a role with long distance buses and trucks doing "the last mile" shipping between warehouse/factory and rail siding.

Buses are a natural. They drive fixed routes on fixed schedules. They stop periodically at passenger terminals.

kelly, whether it's hard or not is irrelevant. You're missing the crucial argument that it is forcing manufacturers to give up design freedom that they need to fit the battery just for the vehicle and maximise interior space.

If you look at the LEAF or Zoe, you can see that the use of interior space is heavily optimized. In the case of the Zoe, they had to sacrifice a lot of head and leg room for the rear seat passengers because they had to maximise battery size to get the desired range. Imagine how much worse that would have been with a sort of suboptimal one-size-fits-all battery.

With the current state of battery tech, there is no wiggle room to make up for a standardised but suboptimal battery.


Israel switching from oil to CNG, it will transform their economy, reduce co2, improve air quality
http://t.co/uBeesZ6Vau

electric vehicles have a useful niche if there is no public transport, but natural gas is the future for low carbon transport, fossil and renewable versions

@Baldwincng:

Using CNG in a combustion engine uses NG around half as efficiently as using it in a fuel cell vehicle, even after allowing for reforming losses.

For a CNG vehicle both gas compression and storage are still needed, and so much of the equipment is similar.

In addition CNG vehicles are not zero pollution at point of use, although many of the pollutants are much reduced.
That of course is not true of fuel cell or battery vehicles, and so in the application we are talking about here, for taxi use, both can contribute far more to reducing city pollution.

All of the possible alternatives, battery vehicles with next generation batteries, fuel cell vehicles, or perhaps even better inductively charged battery vehicles, outperform CNG vehicles in this application in the relevant measures.

@Baldwincing, thx for link. I knew there were NG finds, but not of future plans.

In thirty days, there maybe public feedback on 'the Chevy Spark EV can achieve 80% charge in 20 minutes[daily(~hourly?) repeatable]'.

Could a standard 'range extender container' (fill it with ICE, fuel cell, X-air battery, whatever genset) evolve?

Most EV batteries seem to be rectangular, flat, and floor mounted.


"It's not needed"

Ask potential buyers if they think it is needed. They can get a 400 mile fill up in 5 minutes or a 50 mile charge in an hour.

Oil has gouged gas prices from $2/gal to nearly $4 for half a decade. About time to use $100 instead of $50's at filling stations.

"Oil, it's not needed"

“improve air quality ”

Done! Did you not get the memo?

“low carbon transport ”

I am not the least bit surprised that those concerned with AGW are clueless about basic science.

Gasoline: C8H18
Methane: CH4

The electricity for charging batteries comes from burning fossil fuels.

While carbon monoxide is a ghg, it is not toxic so it does not contribute to air pollution. Since air is 78% nitrogen, combustion with air results in various NOx compounds.

So apparently more drilling and pollution controls negate the need for BEV.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/26/solar-grid-parity-in-102-countries-map/

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/25/how-fossil-fuel-incumbents-hope-to-tame-solar-juggernaut/

"The electricity for charging batteries comes from burning fossil fuels."

Not necessarily, think of utilities as the mainframes of the past.

While reminiscing about nukes and oils, remember your doing so on a distributed network (internet) where these comments(and most accessible knowledge) now exists.

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