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Company behind EV charging kiosks across Hawaii is forced to liquidate

By Josef Federman

Associated Press


Star-Advertiser / april 19, 2011Better Place ceased operations in Hawaii and pulled out of the state as part of its exit from the North America market. Its network of EV charging stations included one at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

JERUSALEM » Better Place, an Israeli-based company that had been a major player in developing Hawaii's electric vehicle charging network until selling its local operations in March, reached the end of the road Sunday when it announced plans to liquidate.

The company started out as a source of pride and a symbol of Israel's status as a global high-tech power, but it suffered from a local brand of hubris and overreach. Better Place's end came after it burned through almost a billion dollars and failed to sell its silent fleet of French-made sedans to a skeptical public. The company's earlier pullout from Hawaii was part of Better Place's exit from the North America market.

It was an audacious idea that came to symbolize Israel's self-described status as "Start-Up Nation," a company that believed it could replace most gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles and reduce the world's reliance on oil — and all within a few years.

But it all came crashing down.

"This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies," the company said. "Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome."

It capped a stunning fall from grace for Better Place and its founder Agassi, a former high-tech whiz kid who sought to change the world by building a revolutionary network of battery-swapping stations.

Agassi, 45, believed that in an era of global warming and rising oil prices, environmentally friendly electric cars could be the wave of the future, if only a way could be found to overcome the limited range of their batteries.

Better Place offered an elegant solution. The vast majority of travelers who commute short distances could plug in their cars at home or work each day to keep their batteries recharged. For longer distances, customers could stop at the swapping stations, remove their used battery and replace it with a fully charged one in a matter of minutes. (Better Place did not operate any battery-swapping stations in Hawaii, instead opting to install a network of 77 conventional 240-volt charging kiosks with the help of a $582,000 federal grant administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Better Place sold the network to Portland, Ore.-based OpConnect for an undisclosed price.)

Agassi's native Israel was chosen as the company's main laboratory, and a network of several dozen stations was installed, offering travelers nationwide coverage.


Star-Advertiser reporter Alan Yonan Jr. contributed to this report.

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HD36 wrote:
That's the free market. You take the risk and reap the reward or not. Main thing is nobody had to pay more taxes because they failed. I think.
on May 28,2013 | 06:22AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Where do you think the $582,000 Federal grant money come from? That's our tax money.
on May 28,2013 | 06:48AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Don't give up on first base.
on May 28,2013 | 09:26AM
HD36 wrote:
Nothing like taking a risk with other people's money.
on May 28,2013 | 02:35PM
serious wrote:
YOU voted for HIM!!!
on May 28,2013 | 12:50PM
HD36 wrote:
I should have known.
on May 28,2013 | 02:33PM
allie wrote:
Scandal-plagued Lingle was involved with this. See Ian Lins column which investigates it.
on May 28,2013 | 02:34PM
Manoa2 wrote:
The free market supports social media like Tumblr just sold for $1 Billion to Yahoo, gdgt just sold for 9 figures, and several small media sites bought by Apple (the one that is subsidized by $ Billions in tax loopholes), Microsoft. And apps like Bang with Freinds and Pandora. These are companies that make no profit and just "burn" money-- their terminology-- so how you figure?
on May 28,2013 | 11:39AM
awahana wrote:
A difficult concept, at best. No automakers in our market signed on, so hard to swap batteries when they aren't easily removable in a LEAF, i, or other PEV. Other innovations will take their place.
on May 28,2013 | 06:45AM
soundofreason wrote:
"But it all came crashing down. "This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies," the company said. "Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome.">>> Keep this quote around. There's a certain rail company that going to be finding it useful.
on May 28,2013 | 07:19AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
You might want to look at how much pollution is created to make the batteries in EV cars. The pollution can undercut all the carbon "gains" from using the battery. Then look into battery HAZMAT disposal when they become unusable after about 6-8 years. More attention needs to be paid to the big picture to make sure that green programs are actually reducing overall pollution, not just one type of pollution.
on May 28,2013 | 08:55AM
Pocho wrote:
main thing the batteries are not manufactored in Hawaii. Other than that I don't really care how much pollution it causes and it can be more than what a gas powered car would. Just my thoughts
on May 28,2013 | 03:18PM
tiki886 wrote:
Were the batteries being recharged with solar or burning oil? I didn't matter. Israel is in the desert and it couldn't make it work.

Guess what? There is no man-made global warming.

on May 28,2013 | 08:49AM
copperwire9 wrote:
You never took basic chemistry, did you?
on May 28,2013 | 10:24AM
GorillaSmith wrote:
Please don't confuse the villagers with actual science. They're too invested in the man-made global warming hoax.
on May 28,2013 | 06:10PM
mikethenovice wrote:
The Federal Government gives financial support when you buy a new electric car, so they should also do the same for these charging station to promote a clean environment.
on May 28,2013 | 09:22AM
HD36 wrote:
The Federal Government gave financial support to GM, GE, AIG, JP Morgan, How do you think those executives took home $100 million dollar bonuses? Do you have a list of the ones who gave it back? The Federal Government doesn't need to give financial support to anyone. They're the ones who need the financial support. You got it backwards.
on May 28,2013 | 02:42PM
CEI wrote:
Hey Mike. Not sure, but I think when the Federal Government "gives financial support" the money first has to be taken from taxpayers. I haven't taken any polls but I would bet that a significant majority of "low information voters" have no idea that federal money was first taxpayer money. How about promoting an informed electorate instead.
on May 28,2013 | 11:12PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Since these plug in electric cars pay no fuel tax that maintain the potholes, a special fee should be in place for these charging stations. Or the property owner at the mall can take over to attract patrons to shop there. So many choices.
on May 28,2013 | 09:25AM
HD36 wrote:
In order to make the batteries in these cars, from mining rare earth metals to manufacturing the parts causes more pollution that the gas, not to mention the pollution from electricity.
on May 28,2013 | 02:45PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
No word on who, if anyone, is taking over these recharging stations....
on May 28,2013 | 12:17PM
GorillaSmith wrote:
Then again, there is word: "Better Place sold the network to Portland, Ore.-based OpConnect for an undisclosed price.)"
on May 28,2013 | 06:12PM
Mythman wrote:
The fish rots from the head, down.
on May 28,2013 | 02:18PM
MartyL wrote:
Another green energy company funded by this administration that bites the dust. At least it was no Solyndra.
on May 28,2013 | 02:44PM
MartyL wrote:
Here's a news flash ... public transportation isn't supposed to make money ... it's the goverment's way of allowing those with no money to buy a car, older people who don't have driver's licenses and kids to go places without having to walk or ride a bike.
on May 28,2013 | 02:47PM
inverse wrote:
News flash, the purpose of public transportation for the benefit of the population NOT special interest groups. BOTH Parsons EIS under Harris and Mufi stated the Oahu rail project is ever completed it will NOT improve traffic on Oahu. The bottom line is ON Oahu and NOT Denver, Vancouver, LA, NY, Chicago, etc. it is the SCHOOL commuting crowd that tips traffic from bearable to gridlock on Oahu and a elevated train from an empty field in Kapolei to Ala Moana shopping center can easily double a public transportation commuters time if they just took an City Express! bus from Ewa/Kapolei to UH Manoa, Punahou, Maryknoll, Hanahauaoli, Iolani, St Louis, St Francis, Hanahauoli, etc.
on May 28,2013 | 03:43PM
inverse wrote:
PS. Of course many of the City Express! buses was cancelled by Yoshi under Carlisle and only slightly reinstated under Caldwell. Not too hard to figure out transportation officials want to FORCE W Oahu commuters to not use a single express City bus route and instead used a Walk/bus/train/bus/Walk solution.
on May 28,2013 | 03:46PM
EINSTEIN1 wrote:
And when taxpayers refuse to provide huge subsidies to the renewable energy industry, it too will fail and be forced to liquidate. There is no such thing as a free lunch unless taxpayers provide it.
on May 28,2013 | 03:49PM
HD36 wrote:
Right. Didn't work out to well with Solyndra. In fact we lost about $500,000,000. But, they were all at Obama's fundraisers so he owed them a favor. I wonder how many fundraisers this guy was at.
on May 28,2013 | 06:51PM
EINSTEIN1 wrote:
Need to check with the Campaign Spending Commission's records. Must've donated the max to Lingle's campaign.
on May 28,2013 | 08:55PM
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