Better Place Partners with AGL and Macquarie to Build EV Infrastructure in Australia; Victoria Sets Up Fuel Efficiency Working Group to Focus on First

Jose Michael

Better Place Partners with AGL and Macquarie to Build EV Infrastructure in Australia; Victoria Sets Up Fuel Efficiency Working Group to Focus on First-Generation EVs

Better Place is partnering with AGL Energy and financial advisor Macquarie Capital Group to raise A$1 billion (US$665 million) and to begin deploying an electric vehicle (EV) network powered by renewable energy. With the world’s seventh highest per capita rate of car ownership, Australia has nearly 15 million cars on the road after adding more than a million new cars in 2007.

Better Place will use its scalable model, also adopted through partnerships with Israel and Denmark (earlier post), to build the EV network in Australia. Macquarie will assist in business development and help raise the A$1 billion for the network build. In support of the project, AGL will provide electricity from renewable sources to power the electric cars and enable Better Place to deliver sustainable transportation.

The Better Place network infrastructure consists of three primary components:

  • Charge spots. These are to keep the batteries topped off with power so that they always have 100 miles of driving capacity, according to the company. Better Place is planning a 2.5:1 ratio of charge spots to cars

  • Battery switching stations. For trips longer than 100 miles (161 km), Better Place plans to build roadside battery switching stations. Stations are to be completely automated, and the driver’s subscription takes care of everything. The driver pulls in, and the depleted battery is replaced with a fresh one, without anyone having to leave the vehicle. The process takes less time than it does to fill a tank of liquid fuel, according to the plan.

  • Software to automates the charging and exchange process.

Better Place plans to buy, own and operate the batteries and electricity, and to offer kilometers to drivers on a subscription basis.

Better Place has an existing partnership with The Renault-Nissan Alliance. A prototype electric eMegane sedan shown earlier this year (earlier post) features a 100+ mile range, with energy economy of <4> 6.5 km/kWh), and peak power of >70 kW (91 hp). Battery exchange time is spec’d at 3-5 minutes.

Better Place says it is committed to open network access and leverages industry standards, allowing consumers to have a choice of make and model. Better Place expects the first mass market EV models to be available in Australia by the 2012 model year, a year after its mass market launch in Israel and Denmark.

Better Place has already identified formed the joint venture Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC, the joint venture between Nissan Motor, NEC Corporation, and NEC TOKIN Corporation) as well as A123Systems as lithium-ion battery providers in its “Better Place Ecosystem”.

Shai Agassi, CEO and Founder of Better Place, said that the network buildout in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size. At 7,617,930 square kilometers—roughly the size of the 48 contiguous United States, Australia is the world’s sixth largest country.

Australia also has the highest per capita level of greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world. Per capita, according to Better Place, Australia produce five times more carbon to generate electricity than does China.

With our commitment to build infrastructure and the Federal Government’s $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund, there is a compelling case for automobile manufacturers to jump in and build clean, safe, affordable electric cars for Australasia and Southeast Asia.

—Shai Agassi

Launched in October 2007, Better Place will build its first Electric Recharge Grids in Israel and Denmark and plans to activate the infrastructure on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

Victoria working group. Co-incident with the Better Place announcement, the Victoria Government announced the establishment of a working group to examine fuel-efficient vehicle technology, with a particular focus on the development of the first generation of electric vehicles and their infrastructure requirements.

The working group will:

  • Review current fuel efficient vehicle technologies research;

  • Assess further opportunities for alternative fuel and technology development;

  • Examine infrastructure needs for electric vehicles;

  • Make recommendations and assisting in the development of standards for electric vehicles and charging; and

  • Consider market and regulatory impediments.

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