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EV Industry Better Off Without Better Place

I’d like to say I was surprised to hear that $850 million bust Better Place has entered bankruptcy, but the company’s audacious vision for electric cars was a longshot from the start. Founder Shai Agassi started in 2007 by raising hundreds of millions and quickly staffed up a global operation as the company attempted to prove that being able to swap out a car’s battery pack in minutes was a requirement for EVs to succeed. This message ran contrary to the rest of the industry’s strategy to convince motorists that EVs could be sufficiently charged for local travel through a combination of overnight home charging, public charging, and the occasional fast charge.

But as I wrote 3 years ago, the risky strategy of positioning battery swapping as a panacea (while denigrating fast charging) was not a good one for consumers, and was only suited to specific applications. For taxis or fleets, where maximizing time on the road is crucial, the extra cost of building a network of battery swapping stations could make sense. Better Place could not even gain traction in its home turf of Israel, a small country where employers purchase many of the vehicles.
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