The nearly billion-buck startup that bet big on battery swapping as the technology that would win the day with electric vehicles is no more.
Better Place, unable to inspire wide adoption of its concept in partnership with carmaker Renault, announced on Sunday that it had filed for liquidation.
Founded in California in 2007 and led by Shai Agassi with evangelical fervor, Better Place had insisted that the way to make electric cars attractive to consumers – to overcome the range anxiety challenge – was to dispense with the whole battery-charging paradigm in favor of one in which a drained battery was quickly changed out for a fresh one.
It made a lot of sense; battery-swapping stations are conceptually analogous to oh-so-familiar gasoline filling stations, where a short stop is all it takes to refuel. But Aggasi’s EV revolution turned out to be a massively expensive proposition to make happen, even in small countries like Israel and Denmark, where Better Place was focusing its early efforts after giving up on the U.S. and Australia. The Wall Street Journal reported Better Place “raised around $850 million from investors that included HSBC Holdings, General Electric, Lazard Asset Management, Morgan Stanley and VantagePoint Capital Partners as well as Israel Corp.”
Then when the cars arrived that could use the stations – Renault Fluence Z.E. sedans – buyers weren’t buying.
As Better Place CEO Dan Cohen said in a statement, “Unfortunately, after a year’s commercial operation, it was clear to us that despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming.”