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Better Place Denmark to plug electric cars by 2011

Shai Agassi's start-up and Danish utility Dong Energy secure almost $103 million in financing to build a network of battery-swapping stations in Denmark in two years.

California start-up Better Place and Danish utility Dong Energy said Tuesday they have lined up financing to bring an electric car charging network to Denmark by 2011.

The two organizations have secured almost $103 million in equity and convertible debt that will go toward constructing stations where drivers can swap in fresh batteries for electric cars.

Better Place

Better Place's business plan focuses on building a network of automated battery-swapping stations along driving corridors. Places to rapidly charge or get fresh batteries will address the range limitations of existing car batteries, according to Better Place.

Although Better Place has announced customers with the governments of Israel, Hawaii, Portugal, and San Francisco for its network of charging stations, Denmark appears to be the first to secure financing to build the charging infrastructure.

Once a network is set up, state-controlled Dong Energy said its excess wind power capacity can be used for charging electric cars. Denmark now gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, but a portion of that electricity is exported because it can't be stored economically.

"Our goal in investing in Better Place Denmark is to help reduce CO2 emissions and increase the consumption of sustainable energy by capturing and leveraging wind power more efficiently," Dong Energy CEO Anders Eldrup said in a statement.

The structure of the deal underlines the pieces auto industry executives say need to be in place before electric cars can be used by large numbers of consumers.

Utilities need to be involved to understand and manage the shift in power-grid load that electric cars bring. Government incentives need to be in place to overcome the higher cost of battery-powered vehicles. In Denmark, the government does not levy a sales tax on electric cars to promote their use.

The start-up also announced that it has hired former Microsoft Europe executive Jens Moberg as CEO of Better Place Denmark.

Better Place was founded in fall 2007 by Shai Agassi, former president of software giant SAP.