Katz: Gov’t should help Better Place drivers to continue to receive service

Shahak: Electric transportation will result in environment protection and the promotion of energy independence for the country.

June 21, 2013 03:07
3 minute read.
Better place car charging

Better place 311. (photo credit: Better place)

The government must do its utmost to ensure that Better Place customers continue to receive service for their electric vehicles, Transportation Minister Israel Katz stressed on Thursday.

“I gave instructions to do everything possible in order to take care of this issue in all aspects,” he said.

Katz was addressing the opening session of the International Transportation Conference at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan on Thursday, sponsored by the Morag Group and the Transportation Ministry, in partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office. Dozens of Better Place customers had gathered outside the conference hall that morning in order to promote the continuation of the electric vehicle industry in Israel.

“Although the company is a private one, the state and the Transportation Ministry, which I head, need to do their utmost to apply damage control for the customers, as far as regulations will allow, Katz said.

“We must ensure that Better Place customers are able to continue receiving services in all aspects – car charging, garage services, battery switches, etc.”

Better Place filed for bankruptcy and announced that it was closing its doors on May 26. With less than $9 million cash-in-hand at the time of filing for bankruptcy, the company’s expenses were approximately $7m. monthly. The liquidators charged with breaking up and selling the company’s assets as well as paying off its obligations initially pledged to keep the company’s battery swapping stations open through June 13. Today, 33 of the original 38 battery switch stations are still open and running, in addition to the plug-in charging infrastructure.

“We are now at a critical stage in the acquisition of the company by a cooperative of customers with the backing of investors and service providers,” said Efi Shahak, chairman of the Association for Electric Transportation Advancement.

“State support for this national project of electric transportation is expected in the future to yield important fruit in the form of environment protection and the promotion of energy independence for the State of Israel,” Shahak continued.

“We congratulate the transportation minister and hope that the State of Israel will help the electric vehicle vision to continue operating in the future.”

On Sunday, June 2, American- Israeli solar entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz first announced that he would likely place a bid on the fallen company’s assets. He is still advancing in talks over the cooperative’s $50m. investment toward improving and rebuilding the electric car project, but such an investment requires the government’s support of electric transportation infrastructure in Israel, he stressed.

Abramowitz and his investment partners believe they can operate a national network for electric vehicle customers with approximately half the current swap stations and the 2,000 charging spots.

Together with the cofounders of the Arava Power Company, Abramowitz was responsible for Israel’s first gridconnected solar field at Kibbutz Ketura and launched Jerusalem-based Energiya Global, which is working to erect solar fields in developing nations around the world.

“Minister Katz recognizes that the electrical charging network is a national asset, and that the drivers of electric vehicles, current and future, are pioneers who deserve basic government support,” Abramowitz said.

His hope is that the government will cancel the purchase and cancel value taxes on electric vehicles in order to encourage their widespread use, as well as set a 20-percent target goal for integrating electric vehicles into government and Israel Defense Force fleets.

“The Israeli public deserves the benefits of lower car, fleet and operating costs as well as clean air,” Abramowitz said.

“The sun will rise again on the electric vehicle dream in Israel.”

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