Electric-car startup loses executives as struggle for customers continues

Electric car, minus battery

A Renault Fluence ZE electric car exits a Better Place battery switching station.

Above: A Renault Fluence ZE electric car exits a Better Place battery switching station.

Image Credit: Better Place

The Fluence ZE is the sole car built today that permits the battery pack to be swapped out at any of the Better Place network of swap stations.

Better Place continues to own the car’s battery pack, which it leases to its customers.

The company agreed to buy 100,000 Fluence ZE models from Renault by 2016, but is now reportedly renegotiating that commitment.

The Fluence ZE is built only to order, in batches, and was apparently not included in a recent update of the rest of the Fluence range for 2013.

Despite its challenges in Israel, Better Place is continuing to roll out its service in Denmark and Australia. In both countries, it says the electricity it provides for recharging will be from entirely renewable sources.

Losses near $500 milion

But Better Place overall has now lost $490 million on investments of $750 million since 2007.

Its cashflow problems have worsened recently as it increased spending to attract new customers and support existing ones during the third quarter of 2012.

When a recent effort to raise 200 million euros from institutional investors failed, it asked for $150 million more in funds from its current investors–but was granted only $100 million.

At least one analyst, IDC’s Sam Jaffe, argues that the problem is not in either the service or the cost but in the Better Place distribution model in Israel.

In that country, he says, Better Place must either take on entrenched leasing companies head-on or split more profits with them in their current role as its distribution partners.

What do you think? Does Better Place have a viable offering? Will it survive?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

This story originally appeared at, one of VentureBeat’s editorial partners.

Images: Better Place

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