Aussies positively charged about Better Place

Shai Agassi's venture will get help raising $665 million in funding to build a chain of swap-and-go electric-car battery stations Down Under.

Electric-car infrastructure company Better Place has signed an agreement with AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group to raise 1 billion Australian dollars (about $665 million) to build a network of electric-car battery stations across Australia.

The company headed by former SAP executive Shai Agassi is best known for its innovative business model that is already being tested in Denmark and Israel .

Similar in concept to gas stations, Better Place offers a chain of electric-car battery stations at which an attendant will swap out a driver's exhausted lithium-ion battery for a newly recharged one.

Drivers belonging to a monthly subscription service gain unlimited access to Better Place stations and fully-charged batteries for their cars. While electric-car owners can still charge their cars at home, a series of stations gives them more flexibility to travel long distances despite a battery's limited range.

The service attempts to make electric cars more attractive by solving the range problem and issue of battery expense.

The service also saves drivers time since Better Place attendants, according to the company, can swap out a battery in about 3 minutes versus the few hours it takes to recharge a battery.

Keeping in mind that electricity is only as clean as its energy source, Better Place stations recharge their stocks of batteries using electricity from renewable resources. In the case of Denmark, Better Place batteries can be used to store excess electricity produced by wind energy.

The company has said it hopes to work with others to develop a car battery standardization so that it could service electric vehicles from any car company.

While Israel and Denmark have already begun to implement Better Place, getting Australia onboard gives the company a chance to prove its network and business model can work on a large scale.

The project already has the support of at least one prominent Australian.

"The Victorian Government supports any initiative that will have positive outcomes in reducing emissions in the transport sector and welcomes this innovative approach to help make broad adoption of EVs in Australia possible," Victorian Premier John Brumby said in a statement.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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