THE FLUENCE ZE (Zero Emission) 390.
(photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
Better Place has unveiled its nationwide network of battery-switch stations,
ahead of the scheduled commercial launch of its fleet of Renault Fluence ZE
electric vehicles (EV) in the second quarter.
Thirty-three stations are
already in operation or close to completion, from Metulla to Eilat. The
pre-launch phase began on the fourth anniversary of Better Place’s creation on
January 22, when 70 company employees and another dozen individuals received the
keys to their new cars.
Better Place expects to support a total of
8,000-10,000 cars on Israeli and Danish roads by the end of this year. Israel
and Denmark are the first two countries in which the company – the brainchild of
43-year-old Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi – is launching its fleet.
want to end global dependence on oil by 2020,” Agassi told reporters in
Jerusalem late last week. He added that Better Place and its partner, French
automaker Renault, intend to make their EV the number one vehicle in each market
they enter in the next four years – starting with Israel.
perspective, this is inevitable,” Agassi said. “Any gas-fuelled vehicle exiting
a Renault, Fiat or General Motors production plant today... will use an average
4,000 euros [NIS 20,000] per year of gasoline over the next 20 years, or 80,000
euros [NIS 400,000] in total, and that is without taking into account erratic
behavior from Iran or the Chinese.”
In the same period, Better Place
customers will spend around one-quarter of that amount operating their car, he
added, explaining that because the company takes full responsibility for the
battery, fluctuations in the price of electricity will not change the cost to
Agassi rejected criticism that the launch was behind schedule,
saying the delays could be summed up in a few words: “Form 4 – building permit
applications.” Better Place initially promised the electric vehicles would hit
the roads in 2011, but Agassi admitted last week that “we didn’t know anything
four years ago.”
“This is something regulatory that has never happened in
any other place in the world, and we are all learning. Better Place is learning,
and the state is also learning how to manage the process,” he said. “Anybody who
has ever done home renovations can understand what it is like to go through the
process once, [but] imagine what it is like to do this simultaneously in dozens
of locations on three separate continents.”
The company will have spent
around $200 million (NIS 745m.) on development, “almost all of it in Israel,” by
the time it completes its testing phase this year, Agassi
Better Place Israel’s pricing plan is like that of a cellphone
provider, in that it sells the device – in this case an electric vehicle – and
then ties customers into a monthly subscription fee based on how many kilometers
The fee includes installment of a home recharging system,
unlimited battery swaps, and 24-hour roadside assistance.
The Fluence ZE
(Zero Emission) is being sold for NIS 122,900. The most basic package, for
20,000 kilometers per year, costs NIS 1,090 per month, while the 30,000
kilometer package costs NIS 1,599 per month. The company says its customers will
spend approximately 15 percent less to operate the car over the first four years
than they would on a gas-fuelled vehicle, after the NIS 1,000 insurance subsidy
is taken into account.
All vehicles come fully equipped with “Oscar,” a
built-in computerized system incorporating GPS technology, battery life
indicator, and multimedia player. The navigation system enables drivers to plan
their route ahead in advance, and forecasts how much energy will be consumed in
the journey. Drivers are led to the nearest battery switch station when their
car is running low on energy.
According to the company, several hundred
orders have already been made by private buyers, and several thousands have been
made by clients of the three leasing companies with which Better Place has
agreements – Eldan, Albar and Avis.