Israellycool » Electric Car Down Under Punditry in the Middle East Fri, 07 Aug 2015 15:40:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Destroying Turkish Made Electric Cars Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:22:30 +0000 Better Place RFID tag and key fobIt’s a long time since I wrote anything about Better Place. I’m still driving my electric car almost every day. Except on days like today when I need to drive up to Jerusalem and back. Then I have to swap cars with my wife. Unfortunately. What a pity.

When I worked on plans to rescue Better Place from the bankruptcy, plenty of thought was given to these cars sitting in the port at Ashdod. These were tied up in huge bureaucratic red tape issues. Seems there really never was any will to get them on the road.

I can imagine that after one and a half years sitting idle, the batteries are completely wrecked. The car bodies (sitting next to the sea for so long) are probably not great either and this is just a huge disgrace. Carasso (the importer) and Renault should be ashamed of themselves. They could have given these cars away to a thousand families who would have LOVE to make local journeys in them just as I do almost every day.

If we want a positive spin, I guess we could say this is BDS against Turkish made cars. All these cars were originally built by Renault on a production line in Turkey.

Globes English – Importer destroys hundreds of Better Place cars.

The cars were stored in Ashdod Port, where they were apparently damaged by being kept there for so long, and it is therefore not economically feasible to sell them on the market. At the same time, the leasing companies and Carasso itself are trying to sell the usable cars through various bargain campaigns.

Carasso said in response, “We intend to scrap mainly Renault Fluence electric cars damaged during their prolonged storage in Ashdod Port.”

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A Jolt Of Electricity Thu, 21 Nov 2013 12:46:42 +0000 Something good happened today. My friend Andrew delivered to me a box that will dramatically improve the utility of my Better Place car.

I haven’t said much recently because, honestly, there hasn’t been much good news. I’m still driving my car almost every day despite the closure of the battery switching network and the public charge stations. I’ve had to make a few trips to Jerusalem (for the GA mostly) in my other diesel car and that sucked.

But today I received a box that allows me to plug my car in almost anywhere. My car is now charging at my office, something I’ve never been able to do. It means I can make a 120km trip tonight without going home and switching to the other car.

Andrew is taking orders for this cable and box which he is assembling from imported components here in Israel.

charging cable 3charging cable 4charging cable 5charging cable 1


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Where Are We Now With Better Place Sun, 13 Oct 2013 09:26:44 +0000 Better Place chargers at Ramat Aviv Mall, Tel Aviv showing out of service signs - Photo Credit: Brian of London

Better Place chargers at Ramat Aviv Mall, Tel Aviv showing out of service signs – Photo Credit: Brian of London

I have a new Op Ed at The Times of Israel which provides a brief update on where we are now.

I’m still driving my car and charging it at home, but I no longer have access to battery switch stations or public charge spots. It’s a real shame as these are being operated, but I have no confidence in the company that is now doing this. To that end I refuse to sign the new contract they are proposing.

Even though it would represent me paying again for something I’ve already paid in advance for, if a new company came along to run the network and behaved in a reasonable way, I’d pay. The new owners are not giving me that feeling.

Please read and share my Op Ed. I will be writing more as this develops.

Better Place is the tragedy that keeps giving

First, a chance to lead the world into a new era in transportation was lost – after hundreds of millions of shekels from outside the country was invested in jobs and infrastructure here. Hundreds were put out of work and the driving public was consigned to continuing to live at the mercy of the volatile global oil market, regularly manipulated by its adversaries. Now a circus of a bankruptcy process threatens to extinguish even the small nucleus of infrastructure that remains – setting the country back a decade or more in its effort to break the monopoly of petroleum on transportation.

This, even as Tesla, the US-based electric car manufacturer, has become the darling of Wall Street, with a market value roughly half of General Motors. And Tesla is using its new fortune to do what? To build a nationwide network to service electric cars across the US. At the same moment as Israel sees its network disintegrate.

Read the rest.

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Big Government Little Government Better Government Tue, 04 Jun 2013 08:44:18 +0000 better_place_blueThere is a petition (in Hebrew) asking the Government of Israel to recognise the special importance of Better Place and do all that it can to preserve it.

Shai Agassi hasn’t said much publicly about the bankruptcy (I believe he is legally constrained in what he can say) but he has shared this petition on Facebook:

Shai Agassi shares petition on Facebook

I’m not a government intervention kind of guy but (as I have written) I believe the Government of Israel has actively hindered the adoption of electric cars. They certainly could have done a lot more (without spending much money) to help.

It’s time they remove some barriers and help Israel take a lead in the massively important task of weening ourselves off our devastating Oil Addiction.

BTW if you use Chrome, you can auto translate this and fill it in in English. Petition link here.

Crappy Google Translate below, I just don’t have the time to clean it up but if anyone wants to please leave a comment and I’ll switch to a real human translation.

This appeal to various government offices, in order to require state intervention to improvise on Better Place and definition Cmiizm National in early for my clients different, and secondly in order to make the vision a reality: 

Prime Minister’s Office

Ministry of Finance

Ministry of the Environment and of the Interior and Environment

Now Better Place not in private hands and the process of liquidation, we urge the Israeli government took a hand in saving a model electric car only of its kind in the world. Among other things, this petition was to lobby for legislative changes and the provision of benefits and Sibsodim substantial citizens of Israel will reduce the emission of toxins by using components electronic (purchase and rent) initiated electric car Better Place serves a turning point in ensembles worldwide and humankind’s relationship to the environment in which he lives. derives from the fact that Israel see This technology springboard for global implementation of a model electric car slowly takes more and more countries in the world.therefore, we close in order that Israel will see Better Place has no property left on the shelf, and implies that the electric car entrepreneur may contribute to Israel in the energy, infrastructure, employment, health, economy, security (reducing global dependence on Arab oil) and most importantly: Environment – the only way we will ensure to create a better world for us and especially for our children no less important, for Ncdeino.  proposals / comments / clarifications please

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Mr Brian Goes To Parliament (Knesset) Sat, 01 Jun 2013 19:53:52 +0000 On Thursday the Knesset’s Economic ministry hosted a special session to hear from interested parties in the collapse of Better Place.

Knesset Economics panorama

Better Place owners organised, mostly via Facebook and the new Electric Vehicle lobby group we’ve formed, to make sure owners showed up. We asked for 10 and I believe we had more than 15.

I can’t give a full account of what was said: frustratingly my Hebrew isn’t good enough so I had to rely on help from those sitting next to me. Take these comments as just a guide to what I felt was said and if I make any specific errors I hope someone will correct me.

The receiver (Segal Rechov Rosen) spoke and my impression then and after is she understands Better Place reasonably well. She does clearly see there is very little value if the system is switched off. Obviously she has very limited funds to run the company and must try to find a buyer for all or part of it very quickly. She confirmed the system will operate at least until June 13. After that we have no idea but she did not (as Globes erroneously reported) say the network will definitely shut on June 13.

Interestingly the receiver even mentioned how the government had done nothing to help the installation of charge spots in useful places or help prevent the blocking of public charge spots by ICE cars.

A representative of the car importers association spoke and, as far as I can tell, was mostly negative. In my opinion some part of the failure of Better Place is on the shoulders of these guys: they are terrified of anything coming in and shaking up their cozy little cartel.

We heard from a wide range of owners: many downplayed the importance of switching noting that with charging at home and office, you can travel very large daily distances without switching. The issue of charge spots being delayed or blocked by the Israeli Electric Company and other petty government bureaucracies. I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone spoke negatively about the experience of owning an electric car backed by Better Place.

I’m updating with the following extra piece left by Yaara (who’s heavily involved in the EV lobbying and owners group):

One point – all owners who spoke did say the loved the car and want to continue driving it but also pointed out the importance not only of a good network of charging spots, but also of switching stations. Without them, we are just like the rest of the world – a country where the electric car is essentially a city car. With them – we have limitless range. The stations are there, the investment has been made, surely a way can be found to make them work financially? Israel could and should continue to lead the electric revolution!

The chairman of the meeting understands the importance of moving away from dependence on oil as the sole fuel for motor transport. I got this impression because I couldn’t hold my tongue and put myself forward to speak at one point. I had to do that in English so I did have a very brief conversation with him in English. The point I tried to make (despite being interrupted) was around the vast investment has been made in Israel and how the Government has seemed to actively try to stop it succeeding up to now. Perhaps now would be a good chance to stop doing that. I believe I did manage to mention that it was ridiculous that the large parking garage for the Knesset visitors has no charge spots.

The Israeli Electric Company didn’t send anyone. That just about sums up their involvement in the electrification of transport in Israel. An adamant refusal to be helpfully involved.

I left the meeting with a neutral feeling. I don’t believe Better Place will (or should) be saved by direct government involvement but perhaps there is a slim chance that if some parts of the company are saved, some elements in government might act to help it a little. There is talk of a law mandating government departments to electrify 20% of their fleets. Without Better Place, that most likely means a lot of money to Honda and Toyota importers for hybrids and plug in hybrids.

After the meeting I took home two other owners. I had picked up David Rose on my way down and, on a whim, I decided to return him him all the way to his home in the Galilee. I ended the day having driven 462 km or 287 miles and switching 5 times (though one in the morning was rather unnecessary and I only did it because I picked David up at a switch station and was a little early). There’s no doubt Better Place built an astonishing system that works. Now we have to see if it can be run economically.

Personally I will be inspecting the figures the receiver comes up with carefully. Who knows, maybe it will be possible to keep it going. We just don’t know yet.

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Better Place: Zombie Edition Sat, 01 Jun 2013 18:41:56 +0000 EV Israel LogoTomorrow marks one week since the receiver was called in to Better Place. I’ve been so busy this week I’ve not kept people up to date here at Israellycool and for this I apologise.

The biggest news is that we have guaranteed operation of all of Better Place’s services for customers (switching, charging and telephone support) until June 13th. Contrary to an erroneous report in Globes, after that time the Receiver has not confirmed switch off. In fact, she understands that switching off the network will dramatically reduce it’s value so she will try to avoid that.

We’re in an undead zombie mode: so I’m driving my car like crazy… I’m not going to use the 60,000 more KMs I’ve paid for, but I’ll make a dent. On Thursday (the day I went to the Knesset) I covered over 450km, my largest single daily total. I’ll write a separate post just about that and link to it.

I’ve given a number of interviews. The Jerusalem Post published a long glowing review of the car and service centred mostly around my comments and the Times of Israel also extensively quoted me.

The Hebrew press has also published many articles that range from barely believable to down right lies. Interspersed in there it’s been hard to hide the fact that the vast majority of owners absolutely loved their cars and the service. There are some very unlucky people who’ve paid deposits but not received cars or have cars but haven’t had their home charge spots completed. They’re in a tricky situation and I’d expect them to be very angry.

An Electronic Vehicle Amutah (non-profit organization) was formed before the insolvency to represent the interested of EV owners. I was involved in this as it was meant to be advocating for EV’s in Israel in general along the lines of similar organisations in the US and Europe. There is a ₪100 joining fee, I joined a few weeks ago before the collapse.

The director is Efi Shahak. They now have an online registration form with an easy to remember URL: It’s in Hebrew but if you need help please contact me or leave a note on the Facebook page.

There is another Facebook page for actual customers to look at, again mostly in Hebrew, which is a dedicated Better Place customer page and was the most active place for customers before the collapse. It was frequented by Better Place staff, but now only those who are also customers are still there (as far as I know).



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Mercedes For The Price Of A Mazda Mon, 27 May 2013 12:56:23 +0000 Renault Badge Fluence ZE in the RainThe press is starting to take note, now, and write about the positive stuff Better Place owners have been saying for ages. In today’s Jerusalem Post environment reporter Sharon Udasin has a  detailed interview with me:

Pulling out of the Better Place battery-switch station at Saharov Gardens on his way to Jerusalem on Sunday morning, British immigrant Brian John Thomas lamented the news circulating about the Israeli electric car company’s decision to close.

“I personally feel very sad that it hasn’t been made to work,” he told The Jerusalem Post from his car speakerphone.

“I feel disappointed in the timing of, for example, when Shai [Agassi] left. I think that massively affected sales at a critical time.”

“The concept and the execution that customers experience on a daily basis is excellent beyond words,” he said. “It really is something amazing to see how happy all the customers are.” Thomas, who purchased his Better Place Renault Fluence ZE just over a year ago, explained how the company’s fall speaks to the “massive failings” of Israelis to warm up to electric vehicles in general. While Toyota importers have recently started to bring in the plug-in version of the Prius, other popular plug-in electric cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have failed thus far to make it to Israel – despite the fact that their battery ranges would be sufficient for many drivers here, Thomas said.

“The importers of cars in this country are dead set against electrification,” he added.

And I do like the last quote I got in at the end:

“We all took the car for different reasons but came to realize that we had a Mercedes level car for less than a Mazda and the service was outstanding.

Something way beyond the normal in Israel.”

Thomas added, “It really wasn’t about saving money: It was about driving and feeling good about driving again.”

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And Now The End Is Near Sun, 26 May 2013 12:50:35 +0000 Better Place customers gather at short notice to talk to the press - Saturday 25th May - Photo: Brian of London

Better Place customers gather at short notice to talk to the press – Saturday 25th May – Photo: Brian of London

This morning Better Place filed for bankruptcy in a court in Israel. I knew on Friday afternoon this would happen and that various press reports over the weekend were broadly correct.

We don’t know what this means for customers at this stage. All the ones I know are fanatical about the service and their cars. Many will be sad just at the prospect of going back to driving petrol cars aside from any financial costs they may incur.

We had an impromptu gathering of customers in the car park of Ikea in Netanya yesterday afternoon where various people spoke to the major TV and newspaper journalists. I spoke to the Jerusalem Post as I was driving to Jerusalem in my Better Place Renault Fluence ZE this morning.

There will now be endless speculation on what killed Better Place. I’m keen to see the numbers which come out of the receiver: when I know the operating expenses versus the income for Israel I’ll be in a much better position to talk with some degree of authority about what has happened.

I’m going to also write a lot more about the ways in which the State of Israel failed to capitalise on an amazing privately funded chance to lead the world and what a monstrous failure that is for the government and institutions of Israel.

As to what this means now for owners, we don’t know. I take some comfort in the fact that the switching station worked this morning and I’m parked in Jerusalem with enough power to roll down the hill to my home. The lights were working on my home charging station and, I suspect, home charging will remain possible for some time to come.

I am also pleased to read this final paragraph in Better Place’s press release:

Against that background, the most recent fundraising round was not successful. In recent months, the management of the company did all that it could to keep the business operating. Today, in the light of our obligation to our staff, customers and creditors, we are applying to the court for the appointment of a temporary liquidator.
The management is requesting the voluntary liquidator once appointed to decide as quickly as possible to award compensation to customers and staff and maintain the functioning of the network”.

They didn’t run this thing into the ground at full speed and, who knows, maybe there is a $500m+ asset waiting to be bought for pennies on the dollar and to turn into one of the world’s great successes. It’s happened before. There are aspects of Better Place’s service (besides the battery switching) that nobody in the electric car world has but are hugely valuable.

A final word for those people who brought me in to Better Place and led me to ownership: I have absolutely no regrets. I’m hooked on driving an electric car and will do all I can to continue owning and using one. I am forever grateful to you all for opening my eyes to electric driving and nothing would make me change this last year and half. Thank you!

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It Was Exactly A Year Ago Today Tue, 21 May 2013 13:16:11 +0000 That I unwrapped my very first electric car and drove her away.

Keys on the table When Better Place owners meet up

I’ve written a lot about the experience and I’m still as positive as I was that day. I’ve heard from many people who’ve bought electric cars, partly helped by my writing and I get a tremendously positive feeling when I hear those stories.

I have two new articles up today, the most comprehensive review of my year will be published a little later at Green Car Reports. It covers one year in a Better Place car.

I’ve also penned a companion piece for Times of Israel which answers a variety of questions that myself and fellow electric car pioneers get asked while we are driving and parking our cars.

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Better News From Better Place Wed, 15 May 2013 18:44:56 +0000 New Better Place cars waiting to be picked upGreen Car Reports has published a report of mine laying out the sales improvements at Better Place.

Overall sales in 2013 have been pretty good. The company is delivering cars at about the maximum rate it can.

This year, Better Place has reported the following sales figures:

  • Jan: 102
  • Feb: 113
  • Mar: 82
  • Apr: 125

A couple of notes: Deliveries last December were less than 10–but January was Better Place’s best-ever month. March deliveries were low because the Passover holiday cut the number of working days dramatically; most Israeli businesses experience the same slowdown.

Better Place Renault Fluence ZE on the streets of Jerusalem
The total deliveries of 422 cars through April represents 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent of the Israeli car market. The Better Place total matches sales of the well-established Toyota Prius, at 400 thus far this year. The best-selling car in Israel this year is the Ford Focus, at 4,512.

Comparing Israel to the U.S. (8 million people versus 311 million), the April figure of 125 cars–adjusted for much higher U.S. car ownership–would equate to sales of 8,888 cars a month in the U.S.

Read the whole thing.

And in a new development, Green Car Reports has also uncovered the fact that Tesla may strongly be considering some battery switching system for their Model S. We shall see.

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