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PHOTO CAPTION: Shai Agassi cuts ribbon at official launch of Better Place in Israel.

Electrifying Israeli Mobility Via Battery Swapping

Jim Motavalli updates status of Better Places' electric car network in Israel.

Published: 18-May-2012

Better Place (BP) is a California-based company, founded by Israeli-born Shai Agassi in 2007, whose mission is not only to wire the world for electric vehicles, but also to do it with a unique twist: battery swapping. The concept is simple enough: Instead of relying solely on charging stations that take six hours or so to juice up an EV, drivers have the option of swapping the batteries in an automated process that takes about five minutes.

Instead of buying a battery-powered car and then figuring out how to charge it - public stations, home unit? - customers have a one-stop transportation solution with BP. In Israel, customers buy "electric miles," paying BP roughly $32,000 (the Israeli price) each for the cars, leasing the batteries and buy charging plan that gives them access to the company's public network and the swap stations. The general rule of thumb is that you'd use home or public charging for commuting and errands, battery swapping for longer trips.

Agassi, a former software executive, is one of the world's great talkers, and taking his message around the globe has helped the company raise $750 million, with early support from such heavyweights as former President Bill Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Talking will only get you so far, but in Israel recently, , BP was not only showing off its network of about 40 swap stations, but also giving rides in the Renault Fluence Z.E., a version of a popular car here that was custom-made for BP with swappable batteries. It's on sale now, though BP hasn't yet started its major marketing push in Israel.

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