Better Place has stuck by its vision of electric vehicles that recharge in minutes, via battery swapping, but there just isn’t enough support for it, be it from automakers or consumers.
It seems like a great idea, being able to quickly swap out the traction battery in an electric vehicle in about 10 minutes. Instead of hooking up to a supercharger for about an hour to get a full charge, battery packs in a Better Place battery swap station are charged and maintained outside the vehicle.
Owners simply pull in and the battery is swapped automatically. The only problem is that not too many makers see this as an ideal approach to electric vehicle batteries. As a matter of fact, only the French Renault Fluence was built to be compatible with Better Place battery swapping technology in mind, as well as standard charging.
Better Place announced last night that it would start bankruptcy proceedings. In spite of efforts to engage electric vehicle makers and improve the technology, the company hasn’t been able to get its cash flow back into the black.
Since the loss of CEO Shai Agassi and others, as well as layoffs and ceasing operations in the US and Australia, this comes as no surprise. Part of the press release states, “Despite significant efforts over that time frame, revenues are still insufficient to cover operating costs, and in the light of the continued negative cash flow position, the Board has decided that it has no option but to seek to make this application to the Courts for an orderly liquidation of the company.”
[Editor’s note: Perhaps Better Place was a bit ahead of its time. Electric cars aren’t exactly a mainstream thing right now, so companies like Better Place would have done better 5 years from now. Tesla Motors, on the other hand, did it right: they now have Supercharging stations, and will probably import the BP model in the future – but on a stable ground].