• Dec 21st 2009 at 2:59PM
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Renault Fluence ZE concept - click above for high-res image gallery

While Better Place has made no secret of its partnership with Renault, the company has always put an emphasis on the cheap cost-per-mile aspect of their business model instead of on the cars themselves. Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi is now slightly refining the message to emphasize the cheaper up-front cost of the EVs, including the Renault Fluence, instead of the running costs. Perhaps he's learned a lesson from Nissan head Carlos Ghosn. The "we're selling miles" message isn't gone, it's just taking a back seat to the "cheap EV" message. To wit, a new interview with Agassi in Automotive News (subs req'd), which is all about how the cost-per-mile, swappable battery plan means a cheaper electric car. How cheap? Agassi says it'll be under $20,000, and that's before any tax incentives. Better Place's first battery swap station will be installed in Tokyo next month, and the cars could come to the U.S. (starting in Hawaii and San Francisco) in 2012.



[Source: Automotive News (subs req'd)]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think it's a good idea and can work. My biggest fear for EV adoption is the huge upfront sticker price. If Nissan can sell the LEAF w/ battery for ~$30K, a BetterPlace swappable car can be had for ~$20K or less. Suddenly, you have an EV that not only can compete with gassers, but have all the advantages of an EV (instant torque, quite, clean), and no disadvantage of range anxiety (ok...I know, only when the swap stations are setup - BetterPlace assumes that before any car is sold).

      Compare to owning an EV w/ battery: if the cost of ownership after 10yrs is the same as yearly lease for 10 years, why would you care?

      Compare to owning a gasser: if the cost of the monthly battery lease and cost/miles comes to less than current gasoline prices, why would you care? As a matter of fact, it would be so much less volatile.

      The devil really IS in the details of the lease. I hope they really get that right.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "The only thing that leasing (compared to buying) ever does is take the sting out of the initial purchase"

        And that is the reason that Nissan is looking at leasing the battery. In addition to the cost of the battery, the $7500 tax incentive is tied to the battery- which could be applied up front, rather than having to wait till the next April. Nissan has stated the ~$30k price would be if they included the battery in the purchase price. If you remove the price of the battery from the Leaf and include the tax credit upfront, that ~$30k car suddenly could become a sub-$15k up-front cost for the vehicle.

        As Nissan has also said that the battery lease and electricity would be lower than monthly gasoline costs, electric cars become a more affordable option for the majority of people than their standard ICE cars (ICE Fluence also tends to start over $20K)...
        • 8 Months Ago
        my understanding is that the Leaf is NOT part of the better place deal.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Problem is, some of us are comparing this not to gassers, but to our current BEVs!

        The only thing that leasing (compared to buying) ever does is take the sting out of the initial purchase. It invariably costs the consumer more in the long run. Why else is leasing and financing pushed so hard? I currently own a battery car (and the batteries). I would not consider owning a car, and then being beholden to the one battery maker. Yes, the volitility of gas prices sucks.... but leasing the battery means that you have no control over that price (for long-time ownership at least) either.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Don't people on leases sign agreements about what they're going to pay? I never heard of leases where the prices can randomly change, unless you're talking about interest in some kind of subprime scheme.
        • 8 Months Ago
        polo

        "Don't people on leases sign agreements about what they're going to pay?"

        It appears that Better Place will have you sign a lease for the battery that has a predetermined price per mile. YMMV.

        Just like a phone bill. You contract to pay for a certain number of minutes, and agree to pay a charge if you use more than those. Plenty of plan options could easily be available for different users' needs. And like a phone, your upfront cost is lowered by the contractual obligation.

      • 5 Years Ago
      EVNut:"The only thing that leasing (compared to buying) ever does is take the sting out of the initial purchase".

      In the case of BetterPlace, there are other (very good) reasons on top of that:

      1. You don't have to own a "new" technology that may become obsolete.
      2. You don't have to "worry" about range degradation because how it's used.
      3. You can swap (because it's not your battery) and erase range anxiety.
      4. Your "quick charge" (swap) is less than 1 minute, in cases when you cannot
      wait around for 26min.

      And those are reasons to compare against other BEVs.

      I used to think the same way: Never lease a car, much less an EV...until BP has the potential to solve all the problems (of course it create its own) that anti-ev crowd likes to point out.

        • 8 Months Ago
        Unless the swap station is EXACTLY where you need it to be... it will take you a lot longer to swap.

        If and when Better Place builds these swap station, they will need to be stocked with Li-Ion batteries sitting on the shelf (the worst thing to do since Li-Ion suffer from short shelf life). The cost of the installation will need to be paid for by charging you fees.

        And since they will not build these swap stations in such numbers like gas stations, count of driving 20 minutes out of your way, 10 minutes to swap and pay (more if you swap on a friday when everyone is headed on a weekend trip), and 20 minutes back.

        You're looking at spending an hour when swapping, and that is if the station is fairly close and is run efficiently.

        Your ridiculous "1 minute" claim is laughable because 14 gallons of fuel cannot be moved into a tank that quickly even with a gas station at every corner. Let alone a 600 lbs battery being unbolted moved out of the way to be replace by another one and rebolted. Then there are coolant lines for the pack too.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Under $20000? Do they plan on leasing the batteries? Or is this supposed to be an ultra low cost car like the Versa? I really am curious how they plan to do this...
        • 5 Years Ago
        leased, swappable batteries.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Better place is all about leasing the batteries. They want to be like the cell phone company of cars, low up front cost with sizable monthly payments. I am not a big fan of the business model, but being able to easily swap out your old battery pack for a new one with more range is interesting. So hopefully their standardization of packs will catch on.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "To date, Better Place-compatible vehicles have been demonstrated only by Renault and its Nissan affiliate. As for the required lithium-ion battery packs, they'll initially cost about $12,000 apiece to manufacture and will remain the property of Better Place, according to the company. Better Place says it will also handle the relationships with power companies, charging motorists on a simple cost-per-mile basis."

        http://www.windowsfordevices.com/c/a/News/Better-Place-Renault-Fluence-ZE/
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you don't use your miles do they expire?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Check out this brief analysis on Better Place-
      http://cleaninvest.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/will-project-better-place-really-work/

      It points out that as Better Place rides the technology curve of batteries- questions arise as to the business model and it's validity.
      • 5 Years Ago
      20K$ is cheap I reckon.
      In Europe Fluence is sold from around 20K€, which is closer to 30K$.
      At 20K$ in Europe it gets cheaper than most superminis (Polo/Clio/207/Fiesta/Corsa) so for me that wouldn't be an issue
      • 5 Years Ago
      20k sounds pretty good. could be much cheaper still though since it's without batteries but with these douchy car makers that's probably as good as it will get for now. so good news
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes, that's right. Leasing the battery. That is what the cost-per-mile reference means. Wait til the EESU from EEstor comes out - it will change the whole game.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am sure my great-grandchildren will be thrilled when the EESTOR comes into production, as it is continually threatening to do.
        By then it may be obsolete however, as most may stick to their perpetual motion machines.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What a scam.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Oh yes...I forgot...you are in love with this guy.

        It's a scam because he wants to completely monopolize the sector with this crap that frankly hasn't even been proven as a working concept practically or in a safety-wise fashion.

        Better Place is nothing more than for Agassi to line his pockets short-term and then disappear...sorry.
        • 8 Months Ago
        And just what makes you think it's a "scam"? Leasing isn't a scam, it is fairly common, especially for expensive items like, oh, maybe automobiles. Besides, aren't all the H2 fuel cell vehicles now in private hands on "lease only" terms with no sales option?

        Leasing on a "per mile" basis is unusual but that certainly isn't deceptive or misleading.

        No, it would only be "a scam" if they didn't let you know the battery was leased until after the bills started arriving, and that most certainly isn't the case.

        Or does Noz think it's a scam because it doesn't run on his favorite gaseous fuel?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It has good potential to make money for PBP and the customers.. battery life can be predicted easily based on usage (miles) and temperature. Lets say you have a 100 mile battery, but your average daily usage (and the plan the customer bought) is only 50 miles, that battery is likely to last 10 years/150k miles or longer.. PBP can easily calculate how much that plan should cost.

      Meanwhile old batteries and the ones sitting un-used at the swap stations can be used to stabilize the grid for the local utility company. I am sure if you want to opt out someone will sell you either a used or new battery.

      The danger to PBP is getting stuck with a bunch of expensive batteries, when new batteries drop in cost and increase in performance. They can probably factor that in to the lease cost.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Remember that Automotive grade Li-Ion batteries at the end of their useful "automotive" life have a capacity of about 70% and are still useful and worth money as second-life batteries to be used in Power Plants for load-balancing.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Leasing isn't for everyone, and PBP's scheme all rests on the ready availability of stations which will require a lot of infrastructure to be built. Those are two big hurdles to overcome.

      But, if people can sign a contract that guarantees their fuel costs are steady and somewhere below that of gas, they'll be laughing pretty heartily as they drive past people grumbling at a pump during the next spike in the price of gas. The ability to lock in the price of fuel for your car for a year or two (or more) will probably be a worthwhile draw for some people. And as I've said, hopefully a market as large as the one for autos can support multiple options of ownership.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I doubt the Fluence will come to the US, when the Leaf will be more expensive. Also, until Renault says the car will cost less than 20K I will take what he says with a large grain of salt.
        • 5 Years Ago
        $20k is not too far out from Nissan's claims for the Leaf, is Agassi is talking after the $7,500 rebate.
        I don't really believe in battery swapping - too many different types of batteries are likely to be out there, but leasing batteries seems like a good model to me.
        I can't really understand the passion of many people to own outright a new technology with fundamentally unknown reliability and life, until real world experience is gained.
        If folks who buy EV's are like the great majority who buy new cars, they will be financed anyway, so it is just the battery company/car builder owning it instead of the bank.
        • 5 Years Ago
        True, the Fluence probably won't come to North America (well, technically Renault is sold in Mexico, under NAFTA you *should* be able to buy one and drive it back to the US...).

        But what about an electric Maxima? Odds are they share a platform...

        With battery costs dropping around 30%+ a year at the moment, I'd rather not buy a battery right now anyway -- it would take a hell of a depreciation hit.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have a laptop I want to sell, it's only 150$, sans battery. You'll only have to pay me 20$ a month to lease the battery. Great deal isn't it?

      And the battery lease is probably a yearly contract, so if you crash the car you'll probably still have to pay the lease... It's a parasitic business model, I advise people to just buy the car and stuff in a third party battery pack, even if they have to make it themselves. Screw the warranty.
      I suspect a lot of disgruntled unemployed computer programmers with a dot com hangover are just eager to ruin the copyright protections built into electric cars... Leasing batteries is a crappy business model.

      I want to own the car, fuel it directly from MY solar panels, own the batteries. I want the only cost to be a battery pack replacement every 10-15 years, hopefully for updated and cheaper technology. And I'd like better place to stop getting in the way of human civilization getting to a better place.
        • 5 Years Ago
        better place wants to sell you EV miles so my guess is that the proprietary charger installed in your garage will automatically connect to their billing system so if you don't pay your bill they stop supplying juice to your car. Probably uses an encrypted communication key to initiate charging. Also I am sure that the contract will contain high early termination fees so they can ruin your credit if you try to skip out on the bill and hack the charging system.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Throwback, leasing may make the car affordable upfront, but long term? And will you get a federal tax credit for an electric car if you don't buy the battery? The credit is determined by how much battery you buy, so I don't think the Leaf or the Fluence will qualify for a penny of credit.
        I see pros and cons to leasing, but the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I expect that manufacturers are looking at EVs as the pot of gold. The most expensive single components in a car are the engine and transmission, being replaced by a comparatively cheap electric motor, a single speed transmission for reversing. I am not counting the controller because all cars have electronic control systems now. Yet all the pricing hints are for a minimum of $20K plus the battery for another $20K. It seems to me that an EV of the quality of a Civic or Corolla should not cost more than about $12k to $14K not counting the battery. Makes the Volt or Prius Hybrids sound like bargains with all their complexity..
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Also I am sure that the contract will contain high early termination fees so they can ruin your credit if you try to skip out on the bill and hack the charging system."

        Why would there need to be termination fees? Its not like you're going to replace the battery with someone else's. And if you hack the battery system thats more along the lines of fraud and theft so you'd probably have more to worry about than your credit rating if you did that. If they can send people to jail for jacking cable, it would probably be the same for that.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I suspect a lot of disgruntled unemployed computer programmers with a dot com hangover are just eager to ruin the copyright protections built into electric cars... "

        How will they afford cars? Seriously though, leasing may be what makes EVs palatable for non EV geeks. Conversely EV fans may be put off by a lease. I do wonder how having to lease a vehicle will affect resale value. Do you have to assume my lease? Is my lease month to month? What happens if I don't pay my lease for the battery but I own the car, how do you repossess my battery?
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