Better Place signs on GE for e-car network

The electric-car services company raises $200 million from GE and others to start an EV charging and battery-swapping network in Israel, Denmark, and Australia next year.

Renault Fluence Z.E. sedans will be available with the Better Place service which includes in-car tools for finding charge points and battery-swapping stations. Better Place

Better Place has secured another $200 million to put its electric-car charging network and battery-swapping stations into operation.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said on Friday that General Electric and UBS joined existing investors in the series C funding, which gave Better Place a valuation of $2.25 billion.

The money will be used to launch commercial service of its electric-car network services in Israel and Denmark early next year, followed by Australia. It also intends to expand into Western Europe.

Better Place's business model is to sell electric-car drivers monthly plans to charge cars at its network and to give them access to battery-swapping stations, which automatically place in a refreshed battery. The plan is meant to address the problem of limited range in all-electric cars and long battery charge times.

So far, Better Place has signed on only one automaker--Renault--to make a car which will operate in its battery-swapping stations. It said that it has letters of intent from over 400 Israeli businesses to purchase Renault's Fluence Z.E. sedan and use Better Place's service once it's available.

Better Place said that high gasoline prices and declining costs for batteries led to the follow-on investment and validate its business. The company has raised $750 million since founding in 2007.

With its monthly subscriptions and battery-swapping stations , Better Place's business plan is indeed unique. But the number of electric vehicles sold in total remains relatively low, with Nissan having sold about 5,000 Leafs so far this year. Because of the higher price of batteries, many auto industry observers expect all-electric vehicles to primarily appeal to environmentally conscious buyers.

Although the company is just starting to roll out its service, the model could have more appeal in countries with higher gas prices and shorter average distances to travel than in the U.S.

The cost for the Better Place service in Denmark, where the price of gas is about $8 a gallon, will range between 199 Euros and 399 Euros per month depending on yearly mileage, which includes free charging at home, public charge ports, and access to robot-operated battery-changing stations, according to a company representative. A three-year plan which includes free charging and the Renault Fluence Z.E. costs about $41,000, the representative added.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. with more details and change in attribution regarding pricing.

 

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