• Jan 25th 2010 at 12:57PM
  • 16
A group of equity investors led by HSBC have expressed a big vote of confidence in the electric vehicle infrastructure concept being proposed by Better Place with a new $350 million funding round. The investment, which values the company at $1.25 billion, is expected to close by the end of March and includes $125 million from HSBC for a ten percent stake in Better Place. Better Place still plans to deploy nationwide networks of charging points and battery exchange stations in Israel and Denmark by the end of 2011, with smaller regional networks in Australia and California the following year.

Unfortunately, other than investors and the governments involved, only Renault-Nissan has expressed any support whatsoever for the battery exchange concept. Renault has committed to producing a single electric vehicle model with swappable batteries. Every other automaker has described the idea as unworkable while battery technology is still in a relative state of flux. Since many of the batteries that the automakers use have liquid cooling systems and because the large packs are being designed as an integral part of the vehicle structure, it seems unlikely anyone else will come aboard anytime soon.

During a press conference this morning, Better Place CEO Shai Agassi revealed that the company is also working on significant additional funding in the various countries where its subsidiaries are operating. Agassi expects to raise enough money to allow the company to operate and deploy until it reaches profitability in 2013 or so. The public charging stations will probably comprise the bulk of what Better Place ends up doing. Access to those charging stations will be a critical part of the success of EV deployment in the coming years.

[Source: Better Place]


Better Place Secures $350 Million Series B Round led by HSBC Group

Deal Marks One of the Largest Clean Tech Investments in History With Valuation of $1.25 Billion

LONDON (January 25, 2010) – Almost two years to the day after announcing its first car partnership and its first country deployment in Israel, Better Place today announced that it has signed an agreement with an HSBC led investor consortium for new equity financing of $350 million. The deal marks one of the largest clean tech investments in history and values Better Place at $1.25 billion.

This Series B equity financing round features participation from new investors including HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Lazard Asset Management. These investors will join existing Series A investors including Israel Corp., VantagePoint Venture Partners, Ofer Hi-Tech Holdings, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments, and Maniv Energy Capital, among others, as shareholders of Better Place. For HSBC, which led the round with an investment of $125 million, the deal represents one of the largest financial investments of its kind by HSBC.

As part of the deal, Kevin Adeson, HSBC Head of Global Capital Financing, will join the Better Place Board of Directors, and HSBC will own approximately 10% of the company's shares.

"Today marks the end of an extensive process with the outcome being a decision by one of the world's largest, most conservative banks, HSBC, to take the validating step of investing in a private company intent on bringing innovation to the trillion-dollar automotive and energy industries," said Shai Agassi, Better Place Founder and Chief Executive Officer. "The strong investment commitment and global relationships that HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management bring to the table combined with the continuing confidence from our original investors enables us to scale up globally and execute against our plan."

In welcoming Adeson to the Board, Idan Ofer, Chairman of Better Place and Israel Corp., remarked, "Kevin and the entire HSBC team will bring more than just capital to the table. We expect that HSBC will help us to scale in Europe, China and beyond, and we're already seeing the value that they are bringing to the company and the Board."

Stuart Gulliver, Executive Director, HSBC Holdings and Chief Executive of Global Banking and Markets, said, "We believe the switch from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles will create future growth opportunities in the auto and utility industries, and we are delighted to take the opportunity of investing in Better Place to put HSBC at the heart of these developments. Better Place is a private-sector solution to the issue of infrastructure provision for electric cars and can succeed without government subsidy and without sacrificing consumer expectations for personal mobility."

Better Place's new board member, Kevin Adeson of HSBC, commented: "We are confident that Better Place has the technical and commercial solutions to allow for the mass adoption of electric cars in the near term. The Better Place switchable battery solution, which addresses the range limitation of fixed battery electric cars, will offer the consumer an affordable and attractive alternative to current combustion engine and hybrid vehicles. We expect the Better Place model to be widely adopted across many countries and cities, particularly in those markets with policies strongly favoring electric vehicle adoption."

The financing allows Better Place to expand its geographic footprint while continuing to execute against its committed R&D and deployment milestones. The company intends to expand into markets where the business model economics and investor returns are optimized, notably in Europe and Asia.

Better Place continues to meet its timetable for Israel and Denmark launch plans for the end of 2011 when the first Renault switchable battery electric cars hit the road. Better Place also will continue to execute against its strategy of early deployment projects in Australia and select North American markets a few months after the Israel and Denmark launches as planned.

Additionally, the company's R&D team is currently testing each element of the Better Place solution in real-life scenarios around the world in a multi-phase cycle, beginning with the company's managed EV network in Denmark, which began last December, and a Tokyo electric taxi project with battery switch station, which kicks off in April this year. These and other development milestones lead up to full-scale trials in the second half of 2010 and commercial launch in 2011.

Agassi added: "Our technology and solutions, together with our strong partnership with Renault, provide us at least a two-year time advantage over all other alternative energy vehicle approaches. Our solution is the only one that can scale to decrease countries' oil consumption and significantly reduce emissions, while providing consumers with electric cars that are more convenient and affordable than internal combustion engine cars."

The transaction is subject to approval by antitrust regulators and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not sure how i feel about battery swapping. On one hand, it does seem a little far fetched, but on the other hand, I could see it being really good to put the batteries back into the hands of professional handlers every once in a while so that they can test the batteries and replace bad cells and maintain the battery infrastructure. It seems logical to me.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What a waste of resources. With that much money we could have developed and built batteries that would make the EV dream come true.
        • 5 Years Ago
        a lot of negativity against better place. most of it is unfounded.

        the real problem is that it takes more infrastructure than other solutions and you are financially locked to a lease of the battery. but if you can live with the lease then better place is handling the infrastructure and then what it does is make the pure EV viable for most things. something a pure EV without blitz charge can't do, no matter range.

        even though the concept has some limits that can't be solved, these limits do not preclude substantial succes of the project. just means it wont solve everything about transportation. it will still be a compromise principle but much less than a slow charge pure EV.
        better place can be a significant catalyst if all goes well and then they can transition into blitz charge EVs where battery swap will cease to exist at which point the electrification of road transportation is more or less complete.

        battery swap could perhaps also be quite interesting for trucking
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think that Project Better Place is on the right track.

      Swapping batteries looks like the way to go. As battery technology moves forward than so will the replacement batteries. The old batteries will be recycled and new technology batteries put in their place.
      Why buy a car with an embedded battery that will be outdated in 5 years?
      • 5 Years Ago
      They need to market to semi-trucks instead of passenger cars. Sooner or later battery mileage will be good enough to match that of gasoline.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Completely useless and waste of resources. All PBP does is increase the cost of EV's by increasing the number of battery packs needed for each vehicle and the cost of building swapping stations. Batteries are constantly improving, Tesla's 240 mile pack was built with 2.4Ah cells and Panasonic is already testing 4Ah cells in the same format. Range will become less and less of an issue and all this swapping nonsense will be worthless. Fast charging is already possible with some of the existing battery technologies.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wrong direction. EPIC FAIL!
      • 5 Years Ago
      For swap stations to be available in any volume for the rich to use they need to be practical for the masses, which they are not. You won't find wide spread swapping stations for the very few who might use them. Not to mention the rich can afford vehicles with the largest battery packs and the longest range, so they will actually need swapping the least. It's a bad idea and simply unnecessary, batteries are improving too quickly, and 200 mile pack already takes care of better than 90% of all driving needs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Renault has committed to producing a single electric vehicle model with swappable batteries. Every other automaker has described the idea as unworkable ..."

      So all of this money to support ONE vehicle? I guess there will be no waiting for a swap when you roll up in your Renault better place car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Renault is gambling that it will be a hit. I doubt it. Think about it, BP is sinking a buttload of other people's money in the infrastructure and buying tens if not hundreds of thousands of batteries. Now, the automaker has to design the vehicle around the BP battery, that's why you see only Renault jumping in.

        But back to the point, after BP buys all these batteries they have to keep them around for 7-10 years, otherwise they won't get their money back. Now, in 3-5 years these batteries will be obsolete and nobody will extend their contract with BP to drive their obsolete vehicles. Will BP introduce better batteries...probably but then they have to sink another boatload of money into hardware.

        This "cell phone" model is BS, a cell phone is obsolete and gets junked after 1-2 years, BP needs 7-10 year use of the battery to recoup the investment.

        On the technical side, nobody has 7-10 year cycle and storage data for their batteries. Everyone has accelerated data. What does BP know of their battery performance, since overnight they will become the owners of the largest number of batteries owned by one entity.

        In conclusion, as a technical guy only I don't see how these guys will make money, I am sure the geniuses at HSBC do. After all these are the same guys that invested in Real Estate and we all know RE only goes up.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Many of Nissan's engineers have also expressed doubts about battery swapping - and they're part of Renault now.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is very possible that Renault will be successful because they will finally be making an alternative to ICE cars that is comparable in *every* way, including price (with added EV efficiency and other advantages to boot)!

        If Renault is successful, then I see other automakers won't hesitate to jump in and make compatible (to PBP batteries) EVs to get in on that market. Automakers always said "if there were H2 infrastructure, we would build the FCV". If PBP can setup that infrastructure, swappable battery EV will come from other automakers, esp if they can differentiate their cars in some way.

        When a market makes money, it is inevitable that others will jump in. We'll have to wait and see...whether PBP & Renault can make money.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Better Place is a sham...the only thing this guy wants to do is monopolize the whole EV swapping/battery sharing scheme.
      • 5 Years Ago

      The service appeals to the 'High-Flyer' customer and will be very profitable for the Better Place enterprise.

      While you and I are content to charge our pack over night, the wealthy are impatient, want prompt service, and often don't care what it costs.

      The plug in stations and the battery pack swap provide quick re-powering and the busy professional is then off to make more money.

      The Leaf battery uses flat or sandwich cell construction rather than round tube style cells as used in the Tesla. This allows for better heat dissipation, and with forced air flow cooling can tolerate hot weather. However . . .

      South Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California hot zones will require an added cooler. At least in my view. Once on a greyhound bus in NM I thought the air conditioning had failed. When the bus stopped and the doors were opened, the hot air that rushed in was like an industrial blast furnace.

      Renault has four models of EV promised to the market. Three are well styled and good looking while one is an ugly little NEV like the 'Smart'.

      Better Place Agazi is a super smooth salesman and has plenty of logic on side. Renault and Nissan Leaf will certainly win out in this. Too bad GM held off so long with the Volt. We all know GM hates EV anyway.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Renault has comitted to building ONE vehicle which has a swapable battery. They have stated the Leaf is not that car. In order for this work (think jiffy lube) most EVs need to have a swapable battery which means using the same style battery, and this battery being easily accessible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      With GM, Tesla and Nissan working on the vehicles, it's nice to see that at least one firm will have the resources to work on the infrastructure problem.

      I hope they switch their focus toward fast-charging technologies -- like 30 min to 1 hour for 80% recharge. With these sparkled everywhere and a convenient payment infrastructure, they will trully advance the cause of EVs everywhere.

      Also, start renting expensive quick chargers to home users. We need to drive the cost of installing and using those too.
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