Better Place, China Utility Agree to Battery Swap JV
TEL AVIV -- At a signing ceremony today in Israel with officials from Guangzhou, Better Place announced a strategic agreement with China Southern Power Grid Co. (CSG), the world’s eighth largest utility according to the Fortune Global 500. The agreement, which focuses on joint electric car and infrastructure projects in CSG’s service areas, will further advance electric cars with switchable batteries in China. The agreement calls for the companies to open a battery switch station and joint education center in Guangzhou before the end of the year, while working to formalize a joint-venture partnership.
Underscoring Guangzhou’s support for the Better Place-CSG cooperation, Executive Vice Mayor Wu Yimin today signed an agreement with Better Place Founder and CEO Shai Agassi that calls for the Municipal Government of Guangzhou to assist Better Place and CSG in their efforts to create a supply chain hub and electric car network in China’s third largest city and home to CSG. The Guangzhou accord calls for the municipal government to encourage local car manufacturers, such as Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group, to produce electric cars with switchable batteries. It also calls for the city to promote electric-car adoption in fleet segments including public-sector vehicles and private-sector fleets such as taxis.
“China Southern Grid is an important partner in a huge market that is moving quickly toward the mass-market development of electric cars and is embracing battery switch as the primary means of range extension,” Agassi commented. “Our collaboration with China Southern and the support of the Guangzhou government open the door to new opportunities for switchable-battery electric cars made by Chinese manufacturers for the domestic and export markets.”
“Better Place has conducted extensive research and testing on its battery-switch technology combined with managed charging, which takes into account the attributes and needs of the electric grid as the electric-car industry grows rapidly in China,” said China Southern Grid Chairman Zhao Jianguo.“We believe that networked infrastructure is critical to enable broad adoption and focusing on charging alone would be too costly and time-consuming. The battery-switch model may become mainstream in China and our joint visitor center and battery switch demonstration project with Better Place will help promote electric-car adoption in China by allowing potential customers to experience this innovative solution.”
“Electric cars present a great opportunity for China and are critical to achieve a low carbon economy. We will support this rapidly growing industry by encouraging production of electric cars in the region and promoting adoption in fleets,” said Wu Yimin, Executive Vice Mayor of Guangzhou. “The cooperation between China Southern Grid and Better Place is a strategic step, and both companies will have our full support. We are pleased to host the joint education center, the first of its kind in China, later this year.”
The Better Place-CSG agreement calls for the companies to jointly engage relevant Chinese government bodies and other stakeholders, secure governmental policy support, and promote technical standards, where appropriate, to further accelerate China’s rapidly-growing, electric-car industry. The companies will develop in phases the joint education center to host government and industry delegations and educate Chinese consumers about the benefits of going electric. The center will include interactive exhibits, meeting facilities, electric cars that visitors can test drive, and an automated battery switch station. The facility is slated to open before the end of year in central Guangzhou. Better Place currently operates similar centers near Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, and Toronto, hosting nearly 100,000 visitors per year.
As CSG and Better Place further develop their relationship, the companies also are looking at the potential for a joint commercial operation based on a switchable-battery, network-operator model. Their pilot projects and other joint activities will explore the benefits that switchable-battery electric cars and the networked infrastructure that supports them can deliver to the electric grid in CSG’s service area, which spans five provinces, one million square kilometers, and 230 million people in Southern China.
CSG, which ranks number 156 on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest corporations, is part of the Electric Vehicle Industry Alliance led by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, or SASAC. The Chinese government created the alliance of state-owned auto, battery, electric, and oil companies with the ultimate goal of building internationally competitive electric-car brands. The Chinese government has declared the electric-car industry one of seven strategic emerging sectors, stated its intent for China to become the world's largest developer and manufacturer of electric cars, and offered strong support in the form of investment and incentives as the country seeks to leapfrog combustion-engine technology and reduce a growing dependence on oil.
Agassi added, “We are in advanced discussions with a number of Chinese automakers to partner around our open network solution and we will share our selection of preferred partners with the market once a final decision is made.”
By the end of the year, Better Place will have battery switch stations under deployment in countries on four continents, including the U.S., Europe, Australia and now China. The deployments form the basis of a growing network for making electric cars more affordable, convenient and sustainable than today’s cars with internal combustion engines. The Better Place model also offers governments around the world a solution for reducing dependence on oil and its harmful contributions to global climate change and local pollution while growing domestic green jobs.
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