Better Place launches commercial electric cars

Company touts lower cost, no emissions, silent motors and lack of gasoline dependence for its cars.

THE FLUENCE ZE (Zero Emission) 390 (photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
THE FLUENCE ZE (Zero Emission) 390
(photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
Better Place Israel announced the commercial launch of its Renault Fluence electric vehicles on Sunday, almost six months after the first EVs hit the road on the company’s fourth anniversary in January.
A television, newspaper and Internet advertising campaign, run under the slogan “It’s not for everybody,” will introduce the arguments in favor of electric vehicles and present the types of people Better Place believes are not suited for them. The expressed advantages include cost, no emissions, silent motors and lack of gasoline dependence.
Better Place has been under scrutiny for operating behind schedule, and is sure to receive more attention for launching its commercial phase later than the second-quarter target.
Founder and CEO Shai Agassi has repeatedly blamed delays on difficulties with building permit applications, and this was the same explanation marketing and strategy manager Ori Lahav provided The Jerusalem Post prior to Sunday’s launch.
“What delayed us a little were the battery stations, the whole subject of Form 4 [building applications]. Israeli bureaucracy really slowed us down,” Lahav said.
“The fact is we have already delivered cars to customers. They have made do without a nationwide spread of battery stations, [but] charging points, roadside assistance, everything works. Now the battery stations are our focus, and that is where we are putting most of our efforts.”
Around 250 cars are already on the road, owned by Better Place employees, leasing companies, and a number of private individuals. Ten battery stations are in complete operation, from Kiryat Gat in the south to Elyakim – just outside Haifa – in the north. Thirtyeight will be in operation by September, according to Lahav, making it possible to drive the entire length of the country from Kibbutz Dan to Eilat.
As part of the commercial launch, Better Place announced two new payment methods – pay as you go and pay and drive. This follows negative feedback over the limitations of the original monthly subscription format, which only started at a minimum 20,000 kilometers per year.
The pay as you go plan will charge customers 65 agorot per kilometer, provided they drive a minimum of 1,000 kilometers per month. Customers who don’t drive 1,000 kilometers in any given month can transfer them to the next month. For example, a customer that drives 900 kilometers in January will be able to drive 1100 kilometers without exceeding the minimum charge.
The pay and drive method will charge customers 55 agorot per kilometer, provided they pay up front for 40,000 kilometers over a three-year period or at least 50,000 kilometers over a four-year period.
Better Place and Union Bank have partnered to allow motorists to purchase this method through up to 48 monthly installments.