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In an earlier post I mentioned that electric vehicles alone are not the solution, but must be coupled with a new, clean-energy grid in order to maximize both efficiency and practicality.  Fortunately, Shai Agassi, the CEO and founder of Better Place, a Palo Alto based company that developed a battery swap system for electric vehicles (EV), has turned this long-awaited dream into a reality.

The greatest hurdles for Agassi were the high costs of electric cars and the “range anxiety” that affect many potential buyers.  According to the Associated Press article, “Electric car network gets first test in Israel,” Better Place addressed these concerns by eliminating the fixed battery.  “Instead, drivers can swap their depleted batteries for fully charged ones at a network of stations, receiving a full, 160-kilometer (100-mile) range in five minutes.”  Essentially, you can be on your way with a fresh, fully-charged battery in the same time it would take to fill up a conventional automobile with gasoline.  Currently, Better Place has four battery swap stations in place throughout central and northern Israel; however, 40 stations are expected to be operating across the country by the end of this year.

The Renault Fluence at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel

French automaker, Renault, has started selling the Fluence Z.E., a model customized to use the Better Place swap stations.  The Fluence Z.E. is priced at roughly $32,000; but considering the fact that this car was specifically designed to be operational within the Better Place network, thus creating a practical alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles, it’s a bargain.  According the the AP article, “Better Place claims it can shave up to 20 percent off the annual cost of owning a car… Drivers buy access to the switching stations and charging spots through a monthly package ranging from under $300 to over $500, depending on mileage.”  Considering that American households spent an average of $368.09 a month on gasoline in April, 2011, the financial benefits (and of course the environmental benefits) add up. 

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.


Estimated household cost for retail gas in April, 2011 (source: CNN Money)

The company has plans to expand into Denmark and Australia later this year.  As far as U.S. expansion is concerned, Better Place currently has small-scale projects in place in Hawaii and California.  Having founded the company less than 5 years ago, Agassi has proven skeptics wrong and succeeded in incorporating a fundamental piece into the “green” puzzle.  Hopefully, with time, we’ll all live in a Better Place.