Is Better Place getting more love?

Updated (see below): Shai Agassi, a former CEO-in-waiting at enterprise software giant SAP who now heads up electric vehicle company Better Place, tends to get a good wrap online. He is articulate, charistmatic and promotes a radical business model that some believe could make electric cars economically feasible. In short, it is based around charging stations where batteries are swapped rather than recharged, eliminating a lengthy wait to ‘refuel’ an electric car; drivers would pay a monthly fee rather than ‘owning’ the battery.

A 20 minute video of his speech at the TED conference in February was just published online in the past few days and has attracted a lot of attention. Late yesterday Wired wrote about a report by three Deutsche Bank analysts that was extremely enthusiastic about the company’s potential.

The analysts, says Wired, concluded that “a pure EV [Electric Vehicle] should not be more expensive than a gasoline/diesel machine”. Their estimates of both the cost of a Better Place contract ($550/month) and the cost per mile of fuel (7c) reportedly compare well with combustion vehicles.

If this is a new report, we won’t be able to track it down for another couple of hours when New York wakes up, so until then it’s worth noting that this is not the first time analysts, included those at Deutsche Bank, have become rather excited about plug-in vehicles. Our auto correspondent John Reed wrote in May (emphasis ours):

While as recently as a year ago carmakers’ green-car announcements often had overtones of worthy science projects or corporate window-dressing, their actions in recent months point to electric propulsion becoming a core business. “You’re going to see more changes in powertrain technology over the next five years than you’ve seen in the last 50,” says Rod Lache, an analyst with Deutsche Bank.

Financial markets are beginning to tally the potential for profits from this technological step-change. AllianceBernstein, the US asset manager, estimates that the market for automotive batteries alone could grow from about $9bn (£4.5bn, €5.7bn) now to at least $150bn by 2030. By that time, hybrid and electric cars could make up most of the world’s 1bn-plus vehicle fleet. A Morgan Stanley report describes plug-in electric vehicles as having the potential to “revolutionise the automobile as we know it”. It compares the nascent industry to producers of MP3 players in 1998.

The full story has a lot of other background and analysis of EVs (or at least, where they were 10 months ago).

The video is below and it’s worth reading Gregor Macdonald’s comments too; he declares Agassi understands oil better than most CEOs, even some oil companies’ chiefs.

Update: We just spoke to Deutsche Bank; apparently they haven’t written a report on Better Place since last year.

Update2: This is because the Wired story was not published yesterday, but one year and one day ago! (Slaps forehead etc.) Well then. Go and read Gregor and John Reed’s pieces, anyway. And here’s an extra link to an early white paper from Better Place that explains the company’s business model in a lot more detail.

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