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Renault CEO Ghosn body blow to Better Place by questioning swappable batteries

Better Place just received what may be a fatal body blow as Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn flatly says swappable battery packs are not the future for electric cars. The statement appeared on Saturday in the Danish online news site Energi Watch, and follows months of troubles for Better Place which saw then-CEO and founder Shai Agassi leave the company, followed by massive layoffs, the shutdown of all operations but those in Israel and Denmark, and the departure of the CEO who replaced Agassi.

The problem for Better Place is that they do not manufacture electric cars, instead the strategy is to partner with automakers who would make compatible electric cars. It was only Renault who stepped up to do so, with the Renault Fluence ZE. To have Renault’s CEO openly saying electric cars with swappable batteries are unnecessary is a major vote of no-confidence in Better Place.

Energi Watch quotes Ghosn as saying: “When you look at the overall trends, we must conclude that the replaceable batteries no longer the main track for electric vehicles. The main trail is flat batteries in cars with charging. We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that demand is rechargeable standard batteries.”

That is, Ghosn is saying the marketplace is choosing electric cars which rely on charging stations, rather than electric cars which rely on battery swapping stations.

The advantage that Better Place offers is what amounts to a fast recharge, by swapping a depleted battery for a fully charged one in about a minute. By contrast, the current crop of electric cars take a few hours to recharge fully thanks to the relatively slow charging rate at typical charging stations.

However, fast charging capabilities are coming along and appearing in more-and-more electric cars.


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