Importer Offers to Buy Up Remaining Better Place Vehicles

Offices of the Electric Car company Better Place are closed, near the Glilot Interchange in central Israel. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)
Closed offices of the electric car company Better Place near the Glilot Interchange in central Israel. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

By Dror Halavy

YERUSHALAYIM – Auto importer Carasso Group, which represents France’s Renault, among others, is offering Israeli owners of Better Place vehicles the opportunity to trade in their cars. The trade-in for the Renault Fluence ZE models is for the full trade-in value of the vehicle, but is only good for drivers whose electric batteries are unable to charge beyond 70 percent of full capacity.

Under the deal, owners of the 2012 model will receive NIS 34,000 ($8,800) in trade-in credits. 2013 model owners will receive NIS 39,000 ($10,150), while 2014 model owners will get NIS 48,000 ($12,450). All told, there are an estimated 900 Better Place vehicles still on the road. Hundreds of vehicles remain unsold or in the hands of leasing companies, which tried but failed to sell them to clients.

Better Place, an ambitious and well-funded project to turn Israel into a center of electric car technology, failed miserably in its mission, with sales never amounting to more than 1,000 or so annually for the three years the cars were sold. The reasons for the failure were many, among them the fact that the costs of operation for the electric cars were the same, if not more, than for standard gasoline vehicles.

The cars also failed because of the way the cars were to be recharged – not at home with a plug in the electric socket, but by swapping batteries at a service station. The swapping network operated for about a year after Better Place declared bankruptcy in 2013, but drivers afterward were forced to recharge their own batteries instead of swapping them out, a process that takes much longer than swapping. Owners of the cars said that they had attempted to complain to Renault numerous times, but to no avail.

In a statement, Carasso said that it and Renault were “considering all methods available to assist the owners of vehicles sold by Better Place.”