After limiting new investments in Australia, electric car venture freezes plans and fires dozens in US

Udi Etsion
Published: 02.22.13

The Better Place electric car venture is firing dozens of employees in the United States and freezing plans to build two battery-switching stations in the San Francisco area for electric cabs as was done in Japan and Holland.

The move follows a company decision to terminate its operations in its submarkets in North America and to limit new investments in Australia. The only activity slated to continue is the deployment of a car-charging network in Hawaii, which is used to charge electric cars on the island.

Better Place’s battery-switching stations in the San Francisco Bay were slated to serve dozens of cars to be built by Coda Automotive, an American company that designs, semi manufactures and sells electric vehicles.

Coda agreed to manufacture for Better Place cars with a swappable battery, like the Renault model it sells today, in order to demonstrate the company’s ability to extend the electric range to the American public and government.

The move is the result of a new strategic plan introduced by the company, which aims to return to its original vision and focus its current activity and resources on Israel and Denmark, the only markets where Better Place has already deployed a network of battery-switching stations.

In addition, the company continues to operate electric taxi stations and a battery-switching station at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The Better Place visitor center in China will remain open as well.

Better Place officials estimate that the existing infrastructure will allow the company to sell thousands of Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars in the two countries, proving the feasibility of its unique battery-swapping technology to customers and potential investors.

The company hopes to obtain the investment required to expand to additional markets and to convince additional manufacturers to market cars with a swappable battery as well.

Better Place said in a statement that “the company’s priority is to ensure that existing engagements to key partners, customers, and suppliers will be honored and Better Place retains the option to resume roll-out in these markets when circumstances permit.”

Dan Cohen, the new CEO who replaced Australian Evan Thornley last month, said: “We need to prove to our customers, suppliers and investors that we have a sustainable, scalable model.

“We believe in the long term potential of both Australia and North America, and are enormously encouraged by the enthusiastic response we get from all our customers. Therefore we will keep exploring solutions which will enable us to keep our long term options with regard to those markets open.”,7340,L-4347668,00.html