Category Archives: Better Place

Better Place Joins Forces with Subaru and Japan

Better Place announced today that it has joined Subaru and other Japanese carmakers to establish an electric-vehicle (EV) project in Japan. The press release is posted below.

Press Release

Monday, 08 Dec 2008
Better Place Joins Subaru, Other Japanese Carmakers In Ministry of Environment Electric Vehicle Project
Kiyotaka Fujii Named Head of Better Place Asia Pacific-Japan

Tokyo (Dec 08, 2008) — Better Place, the world’s leading mobility operator, today announced that it is joining Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru automobiles, and other Japanese carmakers in the first Ministry of Environment, electric-vehicle (EV) project in Japan. Better Place, the only foreign company participating, was invited by the Japanese Ministry of Environment to build a battery exchange station for EVs and showcase the technology in the world’s biggest auto-manufacturing nation.

As carmakers here focus on the future and developing next-generation vehicles, the government’s project supports the move to sustainable transportation and includes various electric-car models and EV infrastructure in multiple cities to demonstrate feasibility. The EV project is scheduled to begin in January 2009 and last three to six months, encompassing municipalities in Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, and Hyogo prefectures. Yokohama—a participating city in Kanagawa—will host the first location to demonstrate the ability to exchange a depleted EV battery for a fully charged one, a means of extending EV range under the Better Place model. Participation in the Japanese project is the latest example of the model’s growing acceptance around the world.

“Better Place is honored to participate in this ground-breaking program in a country with so much auto-manufacturing expertise and history,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place. “We look forward to joining Subaru and other auto manufacturers in the project and demonstrating the feasibility of electric cars with swappable batteries to the rest of the industry. Japan is moving one step closer to the next-generation Car 2.0 model of electric cars fueled by renewable energy.”

Founded in October 2007 with $200 million in venture funding, Better Place builds electric vehicle networks powered by renewable energy. The company is currently working with partners to build electric vehicle infrastructure in Israel, Denmark, Australia and the United States.

Better Place Japan will be led by Kiyotaka Fujii, the former president and CEO of retailer Louis Vuitton’s Japanese subsidiary and SAP Japan. Based in Tokyo, Fujii also will lead the company’s efforts in the Asia Pacific region.

“The Better Place model works across cultures and continents and no one is more qualified and better suited to ensure Japan moves forward in terms of sustainable transportation and energy than Fujii-san,” said Agassi. “When he led SAP Japan, business expanded threefold. He’s the type of leader we want spearheading our efforts in Asia Pacific.”

“While Japan has succeeded in building a robust economy, it should reduce its dependence on oil and lower its carbon footprint. Japan also should look to be a leader in support of electric vehicles by investing in electric charging infrastructure,” said Fujii. “I’m confident that the collaboration between the public and private sectors represented by the Ministry of Environment project will provide major impetus for the adoption of electric vehicles in Japan.”

View the Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan release

Visit Better Place Japanese language page

About Better Place:

Better Place is a mobility operator that aims to reduce oil dependence by delivering personal transportation as a sustainable service. Launched in 2007 with $200 million of venture funding, the company builds electric-vehicle networks powered by renewable energy to give consumers an affordable, sustainable alternative for personal mobility. Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia, California and Hawaii. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

Media Contact(s):

Julie Mullins
Better Place

Jesse V. Green
Hill & Knowlton Japan

Hawaii partners with Better Place

Looks like Better Place has added Hawaii to it’s list of states willing to build its electric vehicle infrastructure. Today, Better Place said that it will be partnering with Hawaii to make mass adoption of electric vehicles powered by renewable energy a reality in the state by 2012. Official press release is below.


Tuesday, 02 Dec 2008
Governor Lingle and Better Place Announce Partnership to Offer National Blueprint for Clean Energy in Transportation
Hawaiian Electric and Better Place Sign Agreement to Power Electric Vehicles with Renewable Energy

HONOLULU (Dec 02, 2008) — Today, Governor Linda Lingle and Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place unveiled a plan to bring an electric-car network to Hawai‘i, creating a model for the adoption of electric cars in the U.S. The move – only the second of its kind announced in the nation – will help fuel Hawai‘i’s drive to lead the nation in renewable energy use, create jobs locally, while also helping to secure our energy future.

“Attracting investments into the state is a major component of our Five-Point Action Plan to help stimulate the economy”, said Governor Linda Lingle. “Today’s announcement is a significant move towards our state gaining independence from foreign oil. This public-private partnership is exactly the type of investment we have been working on as we continue to carry out our Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), moving toward the goal of 70 percent clean energy for the State of Hawai‘i. It highlights the importance we place on finding innovative ways to attract investments in energy technology,” Governor Lingle added.

Better Place, the world’s leading mobility operator, plans to begin permitting for the network within the next year and begin introducing vehicles within 18 months, with mass-market availability of electric cars in 2012. Hawai‘i joins Israel, Denmark, Australia and California since Better Place was founded in October 2007, committed to deploying the world’s first electric car networks.

Hawai‘i spends up to $7 billion a year on oil imports and drivers pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation — accounting for nearly 20 percent of the state’s Green House Gases (GHG). Building the infrastructure for widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not only stimulate the local economy and reduce carbon emissions, but also provide a more affordable transportation option to Hawaii’s drivers.

“Hawai‘i, with its ready access to renewable energy resources like solar, wind, wave and geothermal, is the ideal location to serve as a blue print for the rest of the U.S. in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, growing our renewable energy portfolio and creating an infrastructure that will stabilize our economy,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place. “Hawai‘i has made the commitment to breaking its dependence on foreign oil, and is leading the way in addressing the most important economic and energy issues facing us today.”

Hawaiian Electric Companies and Better Place Hawai‘i also signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the infrastructure and energy needs to power Better Place’s unique network of public charging spots and battery swapping stations with renewable energy. The partnership capitalizes on Better Place’s innovative business model and Hawai‘i’s abundant renewable energy resources to deliver the large-scale deployment of electrical vehicles throughout the state.

“Hawaiian Electric is proud to be the first utility in the United States to sign an agreement with Better Place,” said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. “It is clear that to reach the very progressive goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative will take changes not just in the way we make and use electricity, but in the way we move around our islands.

“The Better Place plan will provide immediate benefits to consumers and encourage the addition of more renewable energy resources to our grid, an essential element of HCEI. Because Better Place will manage when vehicles are recharged, they can provide a market for renewable energy output in off-peak hours when it might otherwise not be needed,” Alm said.

The arrival of Better Place Hawai‘i furthers the progress of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) signed in January – with the goal to meet the state’s energy needs from 70% clean energy by 2030, as well as fostering economic growth and building the workforce of the future. The state is well on its way to leading the nation to a new era of energy independence.

“While oil prices have recently come down from their historic highs, we believe this volatility highlights the urgency for a transformation to renewable energies,” said Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “As we begin to break our addiction to foreign oil, we will be a model for the rest of the nation and the world.”

About Better Place:

Better Place is a mobility operator that aims to reduce oil dependence by delivering personal transportation as a sustainable service. Launched in 2007 with $200 million of venture funding, the company builds electric-vehicle networks powered by renewable energy to give consumers an affordable, sustainable alternative for personal mobility. Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia and California. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

Media Contact(s):

Lenny Klompus
Senior Advisor – Communications

Ted Peck
Administrator, State Energy Office

Julie Mullins
Better Place

Peter Rosegg
Hawaiian Electric Company

Better Place and Renault-Nissan Expanding

A little over a month ago I wrote about Shai Agassi and his Better Place plan.  And wow, does he work fast.  Better place has added Oregon, Monaco, Australia, and California to its list of areas willing to build an Renault-Nissan electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  This will include widely deployed charging spots, but will be centered around battery exchange stations, that will only take minutes to mechanically replace an electric car battery.

So much has happened in this past month for Better Place, I think it would be easier to give a bullet point rundown of the major events.

In a possibly related note, Mitsubishi announced it will be partnering with Oregon and California to bring electric cars to those states, most notably the Mitsubishi iMiev.  However, no announcement has been made on how or if this has anything to do with Better Place’s plan to build battery changing stations in those states.  If the iMiev’s batteries can be changed at the stations like the Renault-Nissans, this would be beneficial to both parties.  Here is the homepage for Better Place, its got a lot of neat stuff, including its own Better Place social network. I’ll have to join.

Better Place’s Latest Press Release:

Press Releases
Thursday, 20 Nov 2008
21st Century Initiative in California Defines Roadmap for Sustainable Transportation, Green Job Growth and Opportunity to Reinvigorate Region’s Competitive Advantage
Better Place Announces Support of California Governor’s and SF Bay Area Mayors’ Commitments to Build Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure
San Francisco, Calif. (Nov 20, 2008) — At a press conference held in San Francisco City Hall, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with the Mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland, joined together with the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Better Place of Palo Alto to announce a sweeping plan to reinvigorate the state and region’s competitive advantage in innovative technology through public-private investments in electric vehicles and other elements of “green” infrastructure. This new approach challenges conventional assumptions that economic and environmental recovery are at odds with each other, and aligns them, instead.

The group defined a vision for encouraging investment in green infrastructure as a means for boosting the state’s competitive advantage while reducing its dependence on oil for transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The group believes that the move to a sustainable mobility model of electric vehicles fueled by renewable energy, beginning in the Bay area, will serve as an economic and environmental stimulus blueprint for the entire country, particularly the nation’s lagging automotive sector.

“California is already a world leader in fighting global warming and promoting renewable energy,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “This type of public-private partnership is exactly what I envisioned when we created the first ever low carbon fuel standard and when the state enacted the zero emissions vehicle program. This partnership is proof that by working together, we can achieve our goals of creating a healthier planet while boosting our economy at the same time.”

“Creating an energy-independent economy is our generation’s moon-shot,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Venture Partner and Senior Advisor, VantagePoint Venture Partners. “For too long we’ve believed that economy and environment stood at odds with each other. By coming together in this time of turmoil to build a clean transportation infrastructure, this generation will fuel the economic and environmental prosperity of generations to come.”

“Transportation accounts for about 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is globally forecast to consume over half of all oil in the coming decades,” said Dan Kammen, Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center, University of California, Berkeley. “This kind of public-private partnership is exactly what we need to create new jobs building a clean energy infrastructure, and contribute to economic and environmental recovery locally and globally. This initiative will help to put the Bay Area in the forefront of developing the science, engineering, and public policy innovations that simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead us to the next economic boom – the clean energy century. With the approach of the COP15 climate summit next year, this initiative can have truly global impact.”

The Bay Area will serve as the first region of California to make the switch from carbon-based transportation to sustainable mobility.

At today’s ceremony, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums announced a series of policy initiatives for transforming the Bay Area into the “EV Capital of the US.” Mayors Newsom, Reed and Dellums jointly announced today that they would begin in December to work with the region’s cities, municipalities, regional governmental organizations and private sector partners to help shape the region’s economic and environmental future around sustainable mobility. (See separate release, “Bay Area Mayors Announce Partnership to Make Region the Electric Vehicle Capital of the US” issued by the Offices of Mayor Newsom, Mayor Dellums and Mayor Reed for more information.)
In conjunction with the news, Better Place, the world’s leading sustainability mobility operator, announced that it would enter the US market with California as its first state, beginning in the Bay Area. Better Place will work a similar infrastructure investment model as it has in Israel, Denmark and Australia. Network planning and permitting will begin in January 2009 with infrastructure deployment beginning in 2010.

Mass market availability of electric cars is targeted for 2012, and Better Place estimates the network investment in the Bay Area will total $1 billion when the system is fully deployed. The Better Place model is an open network model built on industry standards, allowing for fixed battery and battery exchange electric vehicles to operate on the network.

“At Better Place, we believe that the systemic issues facing our country today – climate change, economic downturn and the ongoing geopolitical struggle between energy rich and energy poor nations – all tie back to our addiction to oil,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place. “We believe the successful solution includes a confluence of leadership involving California’s strength in technology and innovation coupled with Michigan’s automotive manufacturing might, with the right policy and national project leadership from Washington. We are grateful for the support from Governor Schwarzenegger, whose policies have enabled this ‘blue ocean’ opportunity. If we tackle these issues through an integrated approach among cities, states and nations, the world wins.”

Also today, the region’s two largest associations – the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group – announced their commitment to accelerating the change from a carbon-based economy to a low carbon economy. Both groups committed to working with their memberships to accelerate action on climate change and view the move to sustainable transportation as a critical first step.

“The green technology industry is going to boom, and it is our job is to ensure it booms here, in the Bay Area and California,” said Jim Wunderman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bay Area Council. “We have the venture capital, we have the research universities, we have management talent, and, perhaps most importantly, we have the visionary elected leaders gathered here today to clear the field for green tech companies, like Better Place, with progressive public policy.”

“As one of the region’s leading business associations, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is strongly committed to accelerating action on climate change and we view the move to sustainable transportation as a critical step forward for the region. As part of our commitment, the Leadership Group will continue to help accelerate commercialization of EV technology and leading-edge member companies such as Akeena Solar will continue to develop affordable solar energy solutions to meet the growing demand for clean energy,” said Barry Cinnamon, Board Member, Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “Increasing the number of electric vehicles and the use of clean energy are two of the 10 action areas in our Bay Area Climate Change Compact, which we have developed in partnership with the 3 Mayors here today as well as the four regional agencies — ABAG, BAAQMD BCDC, and MTC. We look forward to continuing our work to develop solutions to the climate crisis with our many public and private sector partners across the Bay Area.”

“We must invest in the future — now. And Better Place and its role in establishing and building the EV infrastructure necessary to transform the automotive industry and embrace 21st century technology is the best kind of investment we can make,” said Alan Salzman, CEO and Managing Partner, VantagePoint Venture Partners. “As a global leader in CleanTech investing, VantagePoint Venture Partners is dedicated to working with innovative entrepreneurial companies like Better Place and has committed the resources of our Firm, our network, and our partners so that Californians and others can benefit from a re-energized, electric auto industry.”

“While we expect oil prices to remain low in the short term, we believe this environment creates an even more profitable window of opportunity over the long term to invest in green infrastructure projects like Better Place before oil returns to historic highs,” said Idan Ofer, Chairman of Better Place and Chairman of Israel Corp., which has a joint venture with Chinese automobile manufacturer, Chery Corp. “We fundamentally believe that the entire auto industry will switch to electric cars when the environmental cost of producing polluting gas cars has an even greater impact on their bottom line.”

California now joins Israel, Denmark and Australia as the world’s leaders in seeking to reduce their dependence on oil.
About Better Place:
Better Place is a mobility operator that aims to reduce oil dependence by delivering personal transportation as a sustainable service. Launched in 2007 with $200 million of venture funding, the company builds electric-vehicle networks powered by renewable energy to give consumers an affordable, sustainable alternative for personal mobility. Better Place is working with partners to build its first standards-based networks in Israel and Denmark. Better Place will activate networks on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

On Shai Agassi and Better Place

Shai Agassi

In May of 2007, Shai Agassi launched Project Better Place. He had no cars, no test sites, no electrical engineering experience, and no automobile experience. All he had was a vision of an electric automobile charging infrastructure that would allow EVs to finally proliferate. By early summer of this year, Agassi had two countries volunteering for the plan, a major automaker, Renault/Nissan, producing cars, and $200 million in committed capital. Better Place has become the fifth largest startup ever created.

Agassi did not work alone. Shimon Peres, now the president of Isreal, called Agassi in the middle of the night a few years ago, convincing him to leave his position at SAP and make his electric car dream a reality. Most startups test their product before they make any big releases. Better World’s beta tester happens to be the nation of Isreal. Since it is small, and surrounded by water on one side and enemies on the other, the farthest someone can drive is about 250 miles in any direction. Peres helped reduce the car tax from 78 percent to 10 percent on zero-emission vehicles. Agassi posits that the tax revenue loss of $700 million would be more than refunded in money saved from importing less foreign oil. In January 2008, the Israeli government announced its support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars with Project Better Place.

Next, Agassi needed someone to build the car. While still working at SAP, Agassi met Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault. Ghosn was looking for a way to beat other auto companies in the race to provide a gas alternative automobile. Well, now that Agassi had a country willing to provide a grid and $200 million raised to fund the project, Renault hopped on board. Agassi promises 50 Renault prototypes this winter in Isreal and Renault promises to have an electric car on the market by 2011. Better Place hopes to have 100,000 vehicles operating by the end of 2011. And these are going to be highway speed EV’s that will be indiscernible aesthetically and performance wise from regular, internal combustion vehicles. Better Place’s first prototype is a 2005 Renault Megane:
Better Place Renault

Agassi will not disclose the other automakers he is currently in talks with, but Daimler is rumored to be talking with Better Place.

The company plans to implement the project in Denmark as well, where they are working on a partnership with Danish oil firm and utility DONG Energy. Denmark produces more energy than it needs, with 18% coming from wind. So they are actually giving away their access power to Germany and Sweden. What electric cars and charging stations provide, is a way to utilize and store this access power.

Agassi is also working to implement the project in the US, in Hawaii, which spends $62 billion importing oil to the islands. Hawaii’s business and political leaders seem sold on the idea, and just want to know if they are making electric convertibles.

[Source: WIRED MAGAZINE: 16.09, Driven: Shai Agassi’s Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road]

My opinion, Shai is a great salesman with a noble dream. The only holdup to his plan is the one he unsuccessfully tried to explain to Kansas senator Sam Brownback by stating, “We’re like AT&T, not Nokia.” I’m not a cell phone expert, but I believe what he was trying to say with this analogy is that Better Place is more of a subscription service, than a simple, pay-as-you-go deal. The infrastructure must be in place before the cars can be used. To clarify, this was after Brownback asked Shai if he could buy one of the electric cars. The charging grid in the US would be at least a hundred billion dollars to create. But it could be just the type of massive workforce mobilization the economy needs to get out of this recession. I think he is going to need a lot more help from the US government and auto manufacturers; and GM still isn’t softening up to the idea. Either way, he is generating a lot of buzz for electric cars with one prototype and a vision.