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better place

How Battery Technology Killed Better Place

better placeWith EV battery swapping company Better Place filing for bankruptcy over the weekend, don’t expect to see other startups pursing battery swapping infrastructure, says Dallas Kachan, managing partner of cleantech research firm Kachan & Co.

“When Better Place was founded, the jury was still somewhat out regarding battery swapping and fast charging,” he told Environmental Leader. “Well, the verdict is in, and charging infrastructure has clearly won.”

Tel Aviv-based Better Place filed a court motion in Israel on May 26 to liquidate the company. Despite its efforts over the past six months to secure funding and streamline business, Better Place’s revenues remain insufficient to cover operating costs, the company said. The board of directors called it a “very sad day,” but said the continued negative cash flow left it with no other option than to shut down the company.

Kachan, who sounded a death knell for Better Place in January, says EV battery swapping wasn’t well considered from the start.

“Expensive custom robots removing and replacing car batteries didn’t seem to make sense when batteries have been constantly getting faster to charge and holding larger and larger charges,” Kachan says. “Better Place bet against improved battery technology. Because batteries continue to get better, we don’t expect any other battery swapping plays.”

In February, Better Place said it was winding down North American and Australian operations and focusing its efforts in Denmark and Israel, the company’s “two core markets.” At the time, the company said it would retain the option to resume roll-out in other markets when circumstances permit.

This followed several Better Place leadership changes in early 2013 and late 2012. In January, CEO Evan Thornley left the company. He had taken on the leadership role just three months earlier in October 2012, after the departure of founder Shai Agassi.



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4 thoughts on “How Battery Technology Killed Better Place

  1. If EVs become common, battery swapping makes sense along major highways so travelers can swap out a battery and continue their journey without a 4-12 hour recharging stay over. The technology is in it’s infancy, start up of this type of business really wasn’t thought out. You need EVs to swap batteries and there just aren’t enough on the roads to make the operating costs viable, to reach an economy of scale.

  2. The real solution for EVs is the Gigacapacitor, paired with ES Motors. Such a system would give EVs ranges of over 1000Km, charging abilities of less than 30 seconds if desired and be very inexpensive and not need to replaced for the life of the vehicle. A few firms are looking into this now and hopefully you will see them on the streets soon.

  3. If you assume this is a capacitor with twice the capacity of the Tesla battery, about 100KWh and want to charge in 30 seconds, you will need a 12 MW power feed. Say 408 volts at 30,000 amps with 3.5″ in diameter copper conductors. “charging abilites of less than 30 seconds if desired”, sure.

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