February 2, 2010

Better Place Gets $350M Funding

The NY Times reports that Better Place, the closely watched start-up that hopes to create vast networks of charge spots to power electric cars, is set to receive a vote of confidence on Monday, in the form of $350 million in new venture capital.

HSBC is leading the new round of financing, contributing $125 million in exchange for a 10 percent stake in Better Place. That gives Better Place a market value of $1.25 billion.

Better Place is scheduled to make its commercial debut in 2011 in Israel and Denmark, but HSBC's investment could ease doubts about its complicated — and expensive — answer to the longstanding chicken-and-egg problem of getting electric cars on the road without the infrastructure to support long-distance driving.

Mr. Agassi has cast his company's effort in moral terms, citing the threat of global warming and the need to find renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels.

"We've demonstrated that our network is deployable," Mr. Agassi said. "We're ready for a big breakthrough, and there is not one country that doesn't need to get off oil."

Under Better Place's plan, consumers would buy electric vehicles made by the big automakers but get the batteries from Better Place and pay a fee according to the distance they drive. The blueprint calls for thousands of conventional charge points, as well as switching stations where a robotic device could replace a battery in less time than it takes to fill a tank of gas.

"We started out cynical, and we've done expert diligence," Mr. Bernbaum said. "We think Better Place is going to work."
He added that the venture was "one of the largest, and the most important and significant financial equity investments we've made."

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