Electric car startup Better Place liquidating after $850 million investment

In 2008, Better Place partnered with Renault to build an electric car and create a system of battery swapping stations, but the concept never gained momentum.

Dan Farber
2 min read
Better Place hoped to transform the energy industry with electric cars and battery switching stations. Better Place

Better Place wanted to make the world a better place by replacing gas stations with battery switching stations that would remove the driving mileage limitations from electric cars and eventually rid the world of fossil-fuel burning vehicles. But after six years and burning through $850 million, the company is filing for liquidation in an Israeli court.

As reported by the Associated Press, Better Place's Board of Directors issued a written statement Sunday announcing that the company was winding down.

"This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies. Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome."

In 2008, Better Place partnered with Renault to build an electric car and create a system of battery swapping stations along highways, similar to gas stations. However, the concept never gained momentum, with fewer than 1,500 electric cars operating in Israel and Denmark today.

Shai Agassi, the founder and CEO of Better Place until October 2012, focused the company on serving smaller countries with shorter commutes and high gas prices, such as Israel, Denmark and Japan, as well as states, such as Hawaii.

Better Place had built more than 130 charging stations on four islands in Hawaii, for example, but sold them in March 2013 to OpConnect as part of an effort to reduce costs and concentrate on Denmark and Israel.

Better Place switchable batteries would offer electric cars unlimited range and reduce dependency on oil. Better Place

Reuters cited a report from Israel Corp., owner of about 30 percent of Better Place, that the company had accumulated a deficit of $561.5 million and was expecting more losses in November 2012. Subsequent efforts to raise more funds were unsuccessful, leading to the shutdown of the company.

In addition to Israel Corp., Better Place investors included General Electric, UBS, HSBC and Morgan Stanley.