Just over a month after announcing his intention to keep electric vehicles on
the road in Israel, American- Israeli solar entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz has
led a team of investors to secure the assets and intellectual property of the
collapsed Better Place venture.
Together with a consortium of business
partners, Abramowitz – who was responsible for the construction of the country’s
first grid-connected solar field – won the bid on the liquidation of all the
assets and intellectual property of Better Place in the Lod District Court on
The consortium includes the nonprofit EV Drivers Association,
which represents electric car owners, as well as Canadian investment banker
Henry Shiner, who is active in cleantech and alternative energy
“Since making aliya, I believed that Israel can be a platform to
solve global issues. This my friend Saul Singer has taught me,” Abramowitz told
The Jerusalem Post, referring to the co-author of the book Start- Up Nation.
“Dependence on fossil fuels for power and transportation is killing our planet
and poisoning our children.”
With the approval of the court, Abramowitz
and his partners purchased Better Place’s assets for approximately NIS 18
million, what Abramowitz described to the Post as “fractions of fractions of
pennies on the dollar.”
The team also bought the company’s Swiss
intellectual property rights for approximately NIS 25m.
Although at the
time of the court hearing the consortium legally bore the name Sun- Raise,
Abramowitz said he and the team would soon form a new company with the new
partners to facilitate investment and financing.
The SunRaise consortium
was up against a bid from a group made up of the Israeli firm Success Parking
Ltd. and the Florida-based Car Charging Group, Inc.
Better Place filed
for bankruptcy on May 26, closing its doors and filing a motion with the Lod
District Court for the appointment of a temporary liquidator. The liquidators
charged with breaking up and selling the assets and paying off its obligations –
Sigal Rosen-Rechav and Shaul Kotler – promised only that the company’s battery
swapping stations would remain open through June 13. Most are still
Upon its dissolution, Better Place had less than $9m. cash
on hand, barely enough to cover one month of operating expenses. While active,
the firm sold some 900 cars in Israel and 400 in Denmark.
committed to maintaining the 2,000 charging spots and basic battery swap
services for all current and future EV drivers in Israel,” said Efi Shahak,
chairman of the EV Drivers Association and co-chairman of the new company with
Abramowitz. “We thank the court and liquidators for giving Israel a second
chance to get it right.”
The new company is seeking investments of up to
$36m. with both equity and convertible debt participation offers, Abramowitz
explained, stressing the importance of remaining
Commitments have already been secured for 25 percent
of the funds needed to operate the company for the next two years, but
Abramowitz stressed that the team is “seeking additional impact investors who
seek good returns while returning Israel to her rightful place as ‘Start- Up
Nation.’” Abramowitz is the cofounder and president of Arava Power, which built
the country’s first medium-sized, 4.95-megawatt solar field at Kibbutz Ketura in
the Arava two years ago. Most recently, he and several partners launched a
Jerusalem-based firm called Energiya Global Capital, which aims to establish
solar fields in developing nations around the world.
The newly formed
electric vehicle firm has no relation to either of those companies, he
While a number of the battery swapping stations unique to the
Better Place Renault Fluence ZE will remain open, Abramowitz said that
battery-charging infrastructure will be capable of working with other electric
vehicles that Israelis import. Such a move, he said, “will save money for both
drivers and government, fight climate change and keep our air clean.”
is Abramowitz’s ultimate goal, however, that the charging grid becomes powered
by renewable energy sources such as the sun, so that the electric vehicles will
truly be clean and independent of fossil fuels.
“We have been cheering on
Elon Musk and [Californiabased] Tesla Motors, and view Elon’s recent
announcement in regard to improving the ownership and transportation experience
for Tesla car owners by providing battery switching capabilities as a validation
of our battery switching technology,” said Shiner, who led the due diligence and
valuation process on Better Place’s intellectual property. “This is our core
overall vision for the EV industry, and we look forward to working together with
Tesla in a win-win relationship, which will look to model what a national EV
charging network should look like for the rest of the world.”
praised the intellectual property won by the company as a valuable asset “that
can accelerate EV growth worldwide.”
Although the transfer of the
intellectual property still requires a final ruling by a Swiss court, it is
expected to be granted, according to the SunRaise consortium.
Grissel, a member of the EV Drivers Association who prepared the group’s
business plan, emphasized the need for running the new company “as a low-burn,
lean Israeli start-up, but with a world-leading national charging infrastructure
that is currently operating beautifully.”
The company should break even
on its investment in 18 to 24 months, as more electric vehicles emerge on
Israeli roads through government, military, NGO and industry fleets, in addition
to individual customer cars, Grissel said.
Shahak added that there is “a
lot of work ahead” in the near future.
“We are asking for patience and
goodwill from all our drivers and service providers, as we work through the
action plan,” he said.
“Patience will be appreciated and
As far as existing customers go, Tel Mond resident Yaara Di
Segni told the Post after the court decision, “Now the real work
Brian Thomas, a Tel Aviv resident originally from London, said
he felt “cautious optimism tinged with realism” and expressed hopes that the
company would continue to offer him service for his vehicle.
pleased that Yosef and Henry managed to come through with a very credible bid
backed with real money, and I hope they manage to raise all the money they’re
looking for,” Thomas said. “I fundamentally believe in a bright future for
electric cars all over the world and that Israel will be in a leading
Abramowitz, a.k.a. Captain Sunshine, remains determined to see
an Israel electric vehicle network powered by clean energy – a comfortable and
popular transportation option for the nation’s residents.
“We are a small
and pioneering country,” Abramowitz told the Post. “If anyone can switch to
green power for the grid and for our cars, it is going to be the ‘Start-up
Nation,’ and it is a privilege to partner with the EV Drivers Association to
help realize the dream of a green Israel.”