Sitting in the back seat of a Renault Fluence Z.E. car during the five-minute
battery exchange process, one hears only silence as the engine
Better Place launched its first battery-swapping station in
Israel on Wednesday morning in Kiryat Ekron, next to Rehovot.
is the first of approximately 40 stations to operate around the country in the
near term, nine of which have already been completed.
The company has
also erected over 1,000 functional charging spots for the cars and thousands
more will be put in place by the end of the year, according to Moshe Kaplinsky,
CEO of Better Place Israel.
“The solution is here; it is ready for
national deployment. It is here, it is working and it is available,” Kaplinsky
told a news conference.
“We promise that by the end of the year we will
have full national deployment that will enable each and every one of us to
Tal Agassi, head of solution development and operation at Better
Place, reconfirmed the readiness, adding, “We are happy to be able to implement
this solution for the first time here in Israel… When we see that it is
successful in Israel, we are going to replicate it in other places around the
Heading into the exchange station, the driver pulled one of the
vehicles up to motorized tracks, as in a car wash, and put the car in neutral.
The rest of the five-minute process is automated.
While charging the
battery takes about six hours and provides 185 km. of travel, the switch can be
done on the run, during lengthy car trips, the driver, Oved Ladizinsky,
The computerized system on the car’s dashboard helps the driver
figure out when it’s time to charge the car and when it’s time to switch a
“Big Brother knows,” Ladizinsky said, laughing.
the press conference, Kaplinsky explained that Better Place already has signed
agreements with 400 parking lot owners to build charging stations on their land,
and 200 are already standing.
For customer convenience, charging can also
be done overnight, at home, but homeowners or building committees would have to
install special charging sockets; charging from home outlets will not be
“The charge will make me start every day with a full battery.
The fuel station is at my home,” Agassi said.
By the end of the year,
coverage will be extensive, from the northern to southern tip of the country –
“the major thoroughfares throughout Israel will be covered by our system,”
Meanwhile, Kaplinsky assured that the system “fulfills
all the environmental and ecological standards,” and has been undergoing safety
tests. Customer service will be available to drivers 24/7.
three years ago was nothing but a vision,” said Shai Agassi, CEO of Better
Place. “Now it’s real.
“The beauty of it is that nobody will see it,
nobody will feel it – you will just drive your car,” he added. “The driver will
say it’s a car, what’s the big deal? If that’s what the driver says then we’ve
Better Place’s partners at Renault were equally enthused
about Wednesday’s launch.
“Renault is confident that this strategy will
bring modernity back to the car industry and pave the way for cleaner, greener,
quieter car industry,” said Katsumi Nakamura, executive vice president and
leader of Renault’s Asia-Africa management committee, who had flown in from
Better Place already has systems under development in Copenhagen
and Tokyo, and has plans to expand to California, Hawaii and Australia,
according to Shai Agassi.
“This system is going to be copy-pasted all
over the world,” he said.
Agassi said that Better Place will start
selling the Renault Fluence Z.E. cars to customers this year, and they will be
delivered by the end of the year. Sales have already begun in
About 10,000 people signed an “interested” list for the cars in
Israel, he added.
“We expect demand to most likely outstrip supply by a
very high factor in the first 12 months,” Agassi said. “As far as demand and
supply, we will work together with our partners at Renault.”
capable of manufacturing 40,000 or 400,000 cars, whatever is needed, according
to Agassi. The prices of the cars in Israel will be made available in a few
weeks, but in the meantime, Agassi stressed that electric cars would be a
money-saver for the country.
“The entire cost of this infrastructure is
equal to one week of gas usage in Israel,” he said.
Nakamura agreed that
electric cars would reduce costs. He stressed that the Renault vehicles will be
sold at an “affordable price,” calling the car “a mass-market vehicle” that will
“achieve a significant breakthrough in CO2 emissions.”
motivation – besides environmental and financial sustainability – for a
transition to electric cars noted by the speakers was the need to cut Israel’s
dependency on its enemies’ resources.
“We are financing terrorism, we are
financing the radical parts of Islam that are becoming stronger and stronger,”
said National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau in his address. “We finance
people who are against our culture of freedom.
“When we are bewitched by
the car and the fuel we become addicted to the people who manufacture them,” he
Landau praised Better Place for finding a viable solution to
this problem, for “inaugurating a rehabilitation facility, so to speak, from
Landau concluded his address with the “Shehecheyanu”
blessing in honor of the event, adding, “On this very august occasion we are
inaugurating a plant that is Israeli-based. When people are going to mention the
name Shai Agassi in the world, it is a name that is made in Israel.
people are going to mention Better Place, it is a name made in Israel.”