A Better Place, the Israeli electric car company, filed for bankruptcy after burning through over $800 million.
— PrivCo (@PrivCo) May 27, 2013
Unlike other electrical vehicle makers, A Better Place was based on a concept of battery swapping instead of charging stations.
The first obvious sign of trouble was when CEO Shai Agassi was forced out late last year.
Dan Primack writes at Fortune:
“The company was not well-served by having things it thought would happen over a decade happen within a year,” says a close familiar with the situation. “Ultimately the idea was always based around scale, and it just didn’t build it fast enough or well enough.”
I also reached out to my Fortune colleague Brian Dumaine, who has covered Better Place in the past. He believes that the company underestimated the time and expense of everything from purchasing land to dealing with permitting to tearing up the streets for charger installations. He adds that another other major issue was that most electric car-makers — such as Tesla Motors (TSLA) — saw no reason to either make or install swappable batteries, since the battery and control system are considered each EV maker’s special sauce. The only exception was Nissan’s Renault unit, which produced a Better Place-compatible vehicle.
No word yet on what Better Place plans to do with its assets. A company spokeswoman has not responded to a request for comment.
With the departure of A Better Place as a partner,Renault, according to the Wall Street Journal, has now turned to the French conglomerate Bouygues, to address infrastructure issues for its electric vehicles.
Brian of London, an enthusiastic A Better Place customer, has no regrets:
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!
Back in 2008, Thomas Friedman predicted that the wind farms of T. Boone Pickens and the cars of A Better Place would lead “an energy revolution.” Pickens withdrew the last of his investments from wind farms last year. Yesterday A Better Place filed for bankruptcy.
Friedman, whose predictions for the revolutionary Arab Spring have proven false, shows himself no better in predicting energy revolutions.