Solar power entrepreneur Abramowitz and other investors will buy Better Place

Abramowitz is a co-founder of the Arava Power Company, a solar power provider in Israel’s Negev Desert.

Abramowitz and Shahak (photo credit: Courtesy)
Abramowitz and Shahak
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 Wednesday.
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 markets.
“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 functioning.
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.
“We are 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 “investor-friendly.”
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 said.
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.”
It 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.”
Shiner 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.
Noam 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 rewarded.”
As far as existing customers go, Tel Mond resident Yaara Di Segni told the Post after the court decision, “Now the real work begins.”
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.
“I’m very 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 position.”
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.”

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