While Tesla's Stocks Soars, Better Place Says Goodbye

As Tesla celebrates surpassing $100 a share on the stock exchange ($110 right now!) and repaying its loan to the Department of Energy nine years early ($465 million, including $13 million in interest), another electric car pioneer is suffering.

Better Place, the first to create a model for easy charging for electric cars, has filed for liquidation in Israel.

The company’s innovative idea was that rather than sitting around waiting for a battery to charge, why not just swap it for a fully charged one? The vision was to for people to drive into battery swapping stations where in minutes the drained battery would drop out of the car and a new, fully charged one would pop in.

Top investors poured $850 million into Better Place since 2008, but it’s been burning through cash so quickly that last year it had to borrow $45 million to finish building out networks in Israel and Denmark. 

General Electric, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC were among its investors and the company was poised to launch in Australia, Canada, China, Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Renault took the lead in incorporating its technology. It committed to putting it in 100,000 of its first electric car – Fluence ZE – in the first two markets – Israel and Denmark – but fleets never signed up.

And sales of electric cars haven’t reached levels that can support the technology. One reason the Fluence ZE didn’t catch on because the price didn’t match performance.

"The (gasoline-free) vision is still valid and important and we remain hopeful that eventually the vision will be realized for the benefit of a better world. However, Better Place will not be able to take part in the realization of this vision," says the company.

At the same time, a competing technology, electric car charging stations, have gained a foothold with tens of thousands installed over the past few years.  

After accumulating $561.5 million of debt, switching CEOs, trying unsuccessful to raise more money, Better Place called it a day.

"This is a difficult day. Unfortunately, after a year’s commercial operation, it was clear to us that, despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take-up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming,"  CEO Dan Cohen told Bloomberg. 

Better Place joins other suppliers in the electric car chain that have failed: A123 Systems, which made the batteries and carmakers Fisker
Automotive and Coda

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