Friday, August 03, 2012

Better Place Should Be in a Better Place – Will The Company Succeed?

Better Place provides electric cars with switchable batteries, and has been trying to make its mark for the last four years. Such a car is expensive and Better Place's electricity subscription plans reflect only a 20% discount to gasoline prices for similar mileage.

Local fleet operators worry that the Renault (RNO:EN)-made vehicles that Better Place provides will quickly lose their value and buyers will see the required electricity purchases as too expensive. Rental agencies are balking because of uncertainty regarding the cars' resale value. Vehicles with switchable batteries might lose as much as 70% of their original value in four years instead of the typical 40% loss by gasoline-powered vehicles over the same period.

Better Place has service stations that a driver can pull into, and a fully automated machine shuttle will remove the heavy battery pack and install a fully charged new one. It also has recharging spots—a plug and meter—at the stations and elsewhere for a slow recharge. Drivers must subscribe to this service.

Better Place said that it raised $200 million to fund the infrastructure for a rollout in Western Europe. The round reflects a company valuation of $2.25 billion and brings the total amount raised from venture investors to $750 million.

However, critics say that electric-car owners should be able to fuel their cars from their own home rather than Better Place's grid. They also do not like the huge icons on their cars.

No matter what, Better Place is for sure a company worth being watched closely!

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