Electric vehicles [EV] aren’t only having a hard time breaking into the market here in the US, but abroad as well. Some government and large company programs are implementing EVs into their fleets, where the main concerns about range and recharging time, as well as expense, are fairly easy to absorb until the returns are realized.
Private consumption, however, is still having a difficult time. Battery manufacturers, like A123 Systems, have gone under completely. Electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla Motors and Better Place, are barely showing profits.
Better Place has a slightly different approach to the recharging concern than other EV manufacturers. Whereas others are upgrading their charging systems to get the reduce recharge time, less than an hour in some cases, Better Place is focusing on swappable battery packs, which reduce “recharge time” to less than ten minutes. Of course, the different charging strategy also has a different pricing strategy, and it’s faring well, sort of. In one of the test markets, Denmark, 12 of 18 battery swap stations are fully operational, and in Israel, the other test market, 24 of 38 stations are ready to go.
Unfortunately, it seems that the consumers in Israel aren’t as ready to go. Better Place points to the leasing firms, who, under the current arrangements, get none of the profits from Better Place sales, as Sam Jaffe of IDC Energy Insights explains, “The leasing companies balked at becoming a middle-man, and froze Better Place out of the market. The solution to the impasse is for Better Place to either re-mold its Israel operations as a head-on competitor to the leasing companies or to renegotiate its contracts with them.”
Even though Better Place has been able to raise $750 million plus for marketing in Israel, customers balk at the payment plans, somewhat like mobile phone plans. Additionally, pressure from the leasing companies has effectively killed both the supply and demand for Better Place EVs. So far, Better Place Israel has laid off some 140 employees, and that number could double unless a decent restructuring takes place.