Apparently A Better Place For Better Place Is In Bankruptcy (UPDATE)

4 years ago by Jay Cole 20

Better Times: The Israeli Company Announces That Their Charging Network Would Be Coming To Hawaii In December of 2008...It Has Since Been Sold Off

Better Times: The Israeli Company Announces That Their Charging Network Would Be Coming To Hawaii In December of 2008…It Has Since Been Sold Off

A billion dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to.

The Concept Was Simple Enough.  The Implementation...Not So Much

The Concept Was Simple Enough. The Implementation…Not So Much

With nearly that amount, $800 million to be precise, invested into Better Place, and after only selling about 2,000 cars and setting up a small network of battery-swap stations, the Israeli company is set to file for bankruptcy next week has filed for bankruptcy today.  (see company press release below)

Truth be told, this is about the least shocking plug-in bankruptcy story told to date.  The only amazing thing was just how long it took to get here.

Better Place’s gravestone could certainly reflect their mastery at the press release, and their ability to always raise more capital, as opposed to say…anything to do with electric transportation.

Almost 8 months ago Shai Aggassi, the founder, and private capital-rain maker, was ousted as the Better Place CEO, and we marked that moment as being the company’s time of death; since then Better Place has:

And even more recently, had to watch Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn basically and state the company was done with battery swap technology:

“When you look at the overall trends, we must conclude that the replaceable batteries no longer the main track for electric vehicles. The main trail is flat batteries in cars with charging. We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that demand is rechargeable standard batteries.”

Shai Agassi Was "Removed" As CEO Of Better Place 8 Months Ago

Shai Agassi Was “Removed” As CEO Of Better Place 8 Months Ago

Renault, the maker of the Fluence ZE, and Better Place’s lone supplier of battery swap cars, noted that they would still produce the vehicle with swappable batteries in the countries it was currently marketed in, namely Israel, Portugal and Denmark, but only if there was demandWhich, as we know, there is not.

Six years ago when the company launched, Better Place had hoped that a huge network of battery swap stations would be accepted as the logical companion for the coming electric car craze, which was brought on by huge price increases at the pump, and a new global focus on climate change and pollution.

Over the next years, as electric cars were actually produced and offered for sale to the public, we learned that the “great electric car revolution” was really more like the “gradual electric car adoption,” and the 100,000 cars Shai Aggasi said Better Place was going to buy off Renault, as well as the company’s 50% market share by 2020, turned out out to be wild fantasy.

UPDATE: It’s over.  Better Place filed for bankruptcy, as expected.  See below for a portion of the company’s press release:

“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.”

A video look back to ‘greener’ days – Shai Agassi announces the “order for 100,000 cars with Renault(0:55) to the media in Frankfurt Germany in 2010, as well as offers his 50% by 2020 projections (6:38).

Source: Fortune

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 responses to "Apparently A Better Place For Better Place Is In Bankruptcy (UPDATE)"

  1. zilm says:

    It’s great. It will end any talks about “the feature that is really needed for electric car is battery swapping”. Moreover there is a chance that Renault will go from battery renting scheme only and may be cut some costs.

  2. Jspearman says:

    I guess my question now is, will Elon Musk buy the bankrupt Better Place for the patents they must have for swapping technology. The system certainly works, so perhaps there is a way for them to use this as part of their supercharging network? I’ll be curious to see what happens with those.

    1. zilm says:

      I bet for “He will not pay a dime for such garbage”

      1. yuval Brandstetter MD says:

        This garbage as you call it has allowed me to drive 42 thousand kilomemters per annum, in style and comfort, silence and agility, up and down Israel from the snowy peak of Hermon to the blazing desert blue waters of the Gulf. Last time I swapped battery (yesterday) the machine took al of four minutes. Better Place saved me 20 thousand sheqels at least compared with a gas car.
        The fact the Calos Ghosn has perpetrated massive deception, letting BP think that the whole range of Nissan-Renault will go the swapp-able battery is indeed deplorable. However, the concept works, and work even better when batteries double or triple their density.

        1. zilm says:

          Look above article: this costs $400k per car to investors
          They could bought 1 Tesla Model S Perfomance, provide it to you on the charge station and booze up on the rest $300k. And it would be better service than.

          1. ydnas7 says:

            As Elon Musk has already stated that he gave Shai Agassi the idea about battery swapping, I would venture than Tesla already has full access to Better Place battery swapping patents.

            April sales for Renault Fluence in Israel suggest that Better Place was around the #5 most popular vehicle for that month, but Israel is a small market. It will be interesting to see how battery swap gets re-organised. Better Place will not be around to see its fruit, but in many ways this month will probably demonstrate that battery swap is here to stay.

            Battery swap is a complementary technology to fast charging, unfortunately for Better Place, Chameleon fast charge did not eventuate in time to be of benefit to them (neither did real world 120mile range batteries). So it will be interesting to see what Fluence refresh achieves.

        2. Dan Frederiksen says:

          Yuval, what’s your source that Ghosn promised all their cars would be battery swap? I very much doubt he ever indicated anything even remotely close to that.
          Ghosn’s failure here is building any cars for BP at all when it was pretty obvious that such a system could never work for a multitude of critical reasons. Global monopoly is one. All car makers would have to share batteries with everyone else and the list of problems goes on.
          BP was told by so many people that it couldn’t work and he had plenty of time to realize it would never work but never admitted it to himself.
          They could have changed direction early on and still have been relevant but they held the course.

    2. David Murray says:

      Why would he buy useless patents?

    3. yuval Brandstetter MD says:

      Hopefully he will, because it will take only one car igniting while at fast charge, or one battery conking out at fast charging for the whole Tesla enterprise to fall. Looking to Tesla and Better Place investors you have Vantage Point backing both.

  3. GeorgeS says:

    Great title for the article Jay!! I’m still laughing. Good one.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      No days off at InsideEVs, but we get punchy working the long weekends, (=

      1. GeorgeS says:

        Well,
        It’s MM Day weekend.
        Sometimes I find drinking extra produces some good ideas (LOL it sometimes it works)

    2. yuval Brandstetter MD says:

      Actually, quite nasty, unbecoming a proponent of electric transportation

  4. MrEnergyCzar says:

    It cost way too much to build new battery swapping structures compared to already existing outlets….

    MrEnergyCzar

  5. Schmeltz says:

    A sad end to an idea that was gigantic in scope. I wonder now if anyone will step in to pick up the pieces? They have charging posts besides the swap stations. Someone could buy them and make a go of it. Maybe.

    Here’s a thought…maybe Shai Agassi will return to take another stab at it. Let the speculating begin!

  6. Lyle says:

    Sadly, I somehow just knew this was going to happen one day when I first heard the idea a few years ago.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      Good to see you Lyle!

      Yeah, I guess this should’ve been filed under the “too good to be true” category. I thought back at the beginning that the idea could’ve made it maybe given enough time. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be I guess.

      1. zilm says:

        Rather “obviously dead unprofitable concept since first sheet of paper”

  7. Malcolm Scott says:

    Here is another perspective direct from Evan Thornley (mid day ABC Australia radio – early part of bulletin only (to 2:40), later drifts to Australian Industry perspective on EVs – nothing new as we all know Australia has not yet developed an understanding of the urgent need for EVs).

    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3768923.htm

    Apologies for ABC radio thinking a Camry Hybrid is anything like an EV.

    To summarise, Evan is critical of when BP transitioned from the founding management team to a serious professional management team.

    Evan Thornley earlier today on Melbourne radio was still very positive about the underlying viability of the business and EVs, primarily owing to the excellent customer experience of EV owners and the eventual very much reduced cost of batteries. There was quite a bit of chatter between Evan and the interviewer about respective experiences of driving the Leaf and the EV Commodore. Battery swapping did not come into the discussion.

    http://www.betterplace.com.au/index.html

    In practical terms, Better Place in Australia was mostly an EV charging network services provider. I’m not sure if another exists. Very sad for the development of the EV industry in Australia. But I think Hell needs to freeze over first before there will be a serious market appetite for EVs in Australia. But then again, I think we went through Hell last summer. An annual Hell like event might get people thinking more clearly.

  8. Ocean Railroader says:

    From the day I heard about this company from day one I knew it would fail and they would lose their shorts in that I felt it was illogical to take a 900 pound battery out of the bottom of a car and change it out every 80 miles driving down the highway. Along with that there are very few EV’s on the road. Also the Tesla superchargers where around and you could in idea super charge a 250 mile range electric car in 20 minutes without having to take out the batteries for battery change.

    As for Tesla there are several flaws to their battery changing idea. the first one is that they want $60 to $80 bucks to change out the batteries for a fresh one. If they cut this down to say $20 or $40 dollars it would work out and might even work out good. Another thing that could make their battery swap idea work is if they had a 500 mile range car battery used for battery swapping and you could change in your 200 mile range battery for it for a road trip and then return it at the end of a road trip. That could possibly work out.

    But most of all I think Tesla should only build one or two EV swap stations in their highest car markets and test them out for a year or two or unless they have high demand in the first few months to test the waters of battery swapping so that if it fails it won’t take them down with it.