Next month, Better Place, a startup based in California, will begin selling electric cars in Israel that come with subscription packages that include a leased battery and the cost of recharging it. Gasoline is expensive and taxes on gas-powered cars are high in Israel, and the company says the packages could make owning an electric car 20 percent cheaper than owning a gasoline-powered car.
Better Place is trying to solve the biggest challenge to the widespread adoption of electric cars: the limitations imposed by battery chemistry. A battery big enough to give an electric car the same range as the average gas car would be far too large and expensive; and recharging battery packs takes hours at standard outlets, compared to the minutes it takes to refuel a conventional car.
Better Place will sell a new electric sedan made by Renault that has a range of just over 100 miles on a charge—enough for most daily commutes. For longer trips, Better Place provides battery swap stations, where an automated system switches out a depleted battery for a fully-charged one in less than five minutes. Instead of owning the batteries, the car owners buy subscriptions for a certain number of kilometers of driving per year. They can choose from several plans, much the same way mobile phone owners subscribe to minutes.