New Electric Car Finds Proving Ground in Israel

Customized Renault Fluence Coming to Bay Area

By Ryan Ariel Simon

ROSH HAAYIN, Israel (June 23) — Better Place Inc., the Palo Alto-based maker of a system to keep electric cars charged, will use Israel as its first national testing-ground by the end of this year for a customized version of the Renault Fluence.

Renault will offer Israeli customers the new vehicle with a 550-pound lithium battery that can be fully charged overnight or exchanged within five minutes at roadside “switching stations,” Better Place officials said. The cars will be be used in a taxi testing program in the San Francisco Bay Area in mid 2012 according to officials, after a similar program was successful in Tokyo.

The rising cost of oil and its harm to the environment make adoption of electric cars inevitable, according to Michael Granoff, Better Place head of oil independence policies. Granoff said he invested his own money in the company after being impressed by founder Shai Agassi, who was previously the deputy chief executive officer at Germany’s SAP AG, the biggest software company in Europe.

“We are running out of time and the reset button is being pushed in the auto industry,” Granoff said in an interview. While the battery capacity of 100 miles will suffice for most commuters, Granoff said they will be able to take longer trips by stopping at the switching stations that Better Place is laying out across Israel.

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