Better Place, which is developing a worldwide electric car battery charging infrastructure, raised another $200 million in a Series C round (later stage funding), bringing its total to $750 million.
Better Place owns and operates networks of stations where electric vehicle drivers can quickly swap their battery for a fully charged one, eliminating the charging process. It also plans to offer batteries charged using renewable energy, wherever possible.
In 2010, five of the six largest venture capital fundraising rounds went to cleantech companies, and Better Place, with a $350 million raise was the largest. It even raised more than Twitter's $200 million round.
The company's first commercial nationwide electric car networks launch in Israel and Denmark early next year, to be followed by Australia later in the year, starting in Canberra.
Better Place is installing networks in Hawaii, Northern California, Ontario, Canada, Southern China, and Japan, and says it will use the proceeds from this latest funding round to expand further into Western Europe.
By the end of the year, Better Place will have demonstrated its solution across four continents including locations in Europe, the Middle East, the U.S., Australia, China and Japan, with each project providing unique insights into these markets.
"We've worked hard over the past four years to engineer and build a technology solution that competes with oil-based transportation," says Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO. "We are entering the next phase of growth for our company where we prove that our solution works, that it's in demand, and that it scales, as we begin to push into new markets and attract new investors and new partners. I believe that our investors should be applauded for having the vision to finance the future of transportation."
General Electric, which has a joint venture with Better Place, and UBS AG invested for the first time along with existing shareholders, including Israel Corp., HSBC Group, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, VantagePoint Capital Partners and others.
"With this round, our shareholder base now includes the world's largest banks, blue chip asset managers and leading industrial holding companies," says Idan Ofer, Chairman, Better Place. "Our Board and investor base are committed to leveraging their vast networks, experience, and diverse set of skills to accelerate the global adoption of electric cars."
Launch in Denmark, Israel
Better Place will launch initial commercial service to a select group of customers in Israel and Denmark in the first quarter of 2012, expanding to full commercial operations over the following months.
In Denmark, Better Place has agreements with 50 of the country's 98 municipalities, covering 69% of the population to deploy its infrastructure and transition fleets.
Earlier this year, Better Place opened a visitor center where people can order Renault's Fluence Z.E. electric car ($38,300)and subscribe for "mobility services." It costs $556 a month for unlimited mileage, for example, but much less for people who drive less. The subscription incudes a home charger, electricity use as well as unlimited access to public charging stations.
Better Place and partner DONG Energy are working to leverage Denmark's 20% energy production from wind turbines to charge the electric vehicles with clean energy.
In Israel, over 400 corporations, representing a potential 80,000 employee cars, have signed letters of intent to begin switching their fleets to Better Place as the cars and the service become available.
In Australia, it has agreements with Renault, GE, Lend Lease, and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria for the introduction of electric cars and the rapid deployment of an electric car network.
By the end of 2013, Better Place says it will have the largest electric car network in the world in Australia, rivaling other competitive efforts underway in the U.S. and China.