Israel-based electric vehicle network provider Better Place has cut funding of its Australian division, placing the rollout of charging and battery-swapping infrastructure across our country under a cloud.
Better Place confirmed the decision to axe its Australian program and wind-down its “non-core activities” in North America was motivated by its intent to focus on delivering on its strategy in its two core markets, Israel and Denmark.
Better Place CEO Dan Cohen insisted the Better Place concept works, but stressed the need to prove to customers, suppliers and investors that it has a sustainable and scalable model.
“To do so we are now focusing on realising the full potential of what we have built, and that means concentrating our resources and energy in the near term, on Denmark and Israel, where we have customers on the road enjoying our switching and charging networks,” Cohen said.
“At the same time, we had to make some difficult decisions on actions to be taken elsewhere in the world. We believe in the long-term potential of both Australia and North America and are enormously encouraged by the enthusiastic response we get from all our customers.
“Therefore we will keep exploring solutions which will enable us to keep our long term options with regard to those markets open.”
Better Place Australia spokeswoman Felicity Glennie-Holmes confirmed the local division expected its Israeli parent company to begin the process of winding down its Australian operations shortly.
“Our priority will be to manage this process appropriately and fulfil our obligations to all our stakeholders, including plug-in drivers who are using the Better Place network of charge spots,” Glennie-Holmes said.
She said the local division remained committed to the rollout of an electric vehicle network across our country and insisted Better Place could one day resume work on charging and battery swapping infrastructure in Australia.
“We continue to believe in the transformational nature of Better Place and its potential in Australia in the long-term, and we leave the door open to growing the business in Australia after proving scalability in Denmark and Israel.”
Renault Australia corporate communications manager Emily Ambrosy confirmed Better Place’s decision it cut funding from the local program now placed the introduction of its battery-swapping Renault Fluence Z.E. in jeopardy.
“In terms of the Fluence Z.E., we will now need to review the business case for this vehicle based on Better Place’s announcement and determine if it’s still viable to launch in Australia,” Ambrosy said.
In December, Renault Australia was forced to indefinitely postpone the launch of the Fluence Z.E. because of delays to the rollout of Better Place’s EV infrastructure.
The Fluence Z.E. – whose innovative design allows owners to recharge its circa-185km-range battery at a charge station or swap the depleted battery at a switch station for a fully charged one – was originally planned to be available to select customers in Canberra during the second quarter of 2012 before going on sale to the public from a number of dealers across the country in the final quarter of the year.
The take-up of electric vehicles in Australia continues to be a slow process. Last year, 252 electric and plug-in vehicles were registered in Australia, representing just 0.02 per cent of total vehicle registrations (or one in every 5000 vehicles) across the country. Last month, 14 Holden Volt plug-ins and 12 Nissan Leaf EVs were sold in Australia – five of which were purchased by private buyers and 21 by fleets.