Better Place have almost disappeared from the news after a big mass media hype and latest raise of money last year. Company looks like retreated to Israel and only its founder Shai Agassi is shining occasionally in the mass media and preaching about Electric Cars. We are grateful that he uses his media powers for the good, but not sure how his business is going.
Our investments in Lithium and Rare Earths will be the big beneficiaries if his Better Place system will be in the market one day - swappable batteries require more Lithium batteries that there are Electric Cars on the road.
Last time we saw better place exposition in Frankfurt at the Motor show in 2009 and last year the company was not even presented at the Paris Motor show. We have not seen them at the recent US Auto shows and nothing is coming from Geneva so far.
This video from Ontario gives us some hope that the company is still moving forward.
"We do not think that Better Place investors will be the most happy people in the EV investment world - model of Better Place can work in some places, but it is already under pressure. Roll out of this concept now seems to be very late and business model constantly changing with new twists in the company presentation materials. Idea to sell miles like minutes in mobile phone was good before Nissan Leaf and GM Volt came out in the market already. Why would you trade the difference between your existing gas bills and electricity utility bill? Before the reason was that the battery will be not your property, but the one of the Better Place and you will exclude all questions about battery cost, its reliability and warranty out of your consumer decision process for purchase of EV. But now it looks like almost all automakers are moving with batteries fixed for the particular EV and extended warranties for the batteries.
Better Place expositions have disappeared from Nissan and Renault displays at last year Paris 2010 Motor Show. Battery swapping stations will require a lot of CAPEX and it is not clear how return on this investments will be generated. So far there is no battery swappable EV on the market, Tesla with its model S was talking about it, but even Renault now propose to lease the battery with monthly payments - taking the most attractive competitive proposition of a better place. This approach could be the real game changer and address the most important questions related to the batteries at the initial stage of the market penetration.
For our Lithium and REE market Better Place is a very important project in any way and we continue to follow its development - Shai Agassi has been promoting the EV sector for years and if his model will succeed in at least a few markets it will be the dramatic move forward for all EV concept. Idea with swappable batteries will actually require the larger lithium battery park than EVs signed for these operations, which will lead to additional demand for lithium."