a Day at BetterPlace Visitor Centre

October 12th, 2012 § Comments Off on a Day at BetterPlace Visitor Centre § permalink

Once upon time, we have (only 2 weeks ago, at this point) flown to Tel Aviv, Israel, and were very fortunate, thanks to certain Brian, to visit the BetterPlace visitor center and see for ourselves how the electric car scheme is established and how it works in reality.

Here is my somewhat report for my visitors;

I have a go at the Renault Fluence EV driving, at on-site circuit.
In short, im impressed.
Having owned my city-sized Citroen czero for some two months now, the spacious, kitted, cabin of the 5 seater sedan, has naturally broadened my horizons in terms of Electric Vehicle expectations even for myself, and that##Q##s quite something.

Oscar. Sat-Nav. Bonus.
It comes with Oscar (Sat-Nav smart system) as standard.
This is something entirely else from the standard car-fitted sat-nav system. Its designed not only to get you from A to B, but with this electric vehicle at its core.

Unlike czero/imiev/ion varieties of my car with comes with NIL of gadget extras (see my CZero interior pics), and UNLIKE Nissan Leaf##Q##s system which does indeed have a map of the charging point it can show you nearby, OSCAR, will tell you, as you plan your route, how much charge you will have estimated at each of your stops/destinations, and should you exceed your standard average 70-80 odd miles of real-life charge, it will give you options to “FIX ROUTE” and divert your route via one of nearest 24 BATTERY-SWAP facilities around Israel. 5 minutes later, AFTER you arrive at such 24/7 facility, away you go to you destination.

Driving Experience
I cannot say much, since any of the following: spacious cabin space, leather seats, aplenty driving control and even a smart-sat-nav system, road stability while at speed, quality feel… makes me drool, – as I don##Q##t have any. 🙁

I kinda felt cheated out by mitsubishi-Citroen at one point, since its all… well…plain in MY CZero EV in comparison. Despite approximately costing the same £30k on the list price!

The Battery Swap Stations
The thing is, Renault models are unlike other Electric Cars. They have Swappable batteries. While LEAF, CZERO, IMIEV, VOLT, ION, – dont.

It comes with its cons and pros.
The Battery is leased, this is some equivalent to near £4,500 for 4 years (indeed subject to 80k KM or 50k Miles for whole term, – that##Q##s 12.5k/annum). Essentially this comes down to 45 pence/mile vs 95 pence/mile for conventional engine fuel costs. Best part your “engine” = battery is a leased product, running under warranty throughout the duration of the agreement.

Now which car ownership deal can give you the guarantees as that?! Impressed most foremost here.

BetterPlace offers the car deal which you BuY, NOT Rent/Lease. Pay attention. there is no confusion here. The car=shell, as nice as it is, – its yous, you buy that.
Battery pack, with all the guarantees, upgrades in battery tech* – your engine – you lease. At the end of the 4 years term (car repayment+battery lease) plan is that you OWN the car and merely renew the lease. “4 years later”, battery tech is expected to improve, offering further driving range. cost per mile remains the same low, or even less*.

Customer Service
While i have been amazed at the BetterPlace##Q##s GREEN subscription scheme, which aims to offset the power generated for these cars by either buying the carbon credit or maybe and eventually installing the solar/sun energy technologies in the region – its hot/sunny middle-east – there is always aplenty of solar, the user experience I was glad to hear, – is what should make this “TECH LEAP” more comfortable, – appears second to none.

  • Example 1
  • Your Car develops fault. Yes, the electric one which you are paying off, not leasing. You are given a replacement car (they are all identical spec), while your car is in the GREEN garage. Now, too good? which scheme offers you a car ownership, and give you temporary replacement there and then if you have issues with the new tech/your car is in the garage?

    And I am not talking about the Mercedes/BMW/Volvo, Toyota car-accident-insurance courtesy car. if either of these break while under normal use conditions. Tough. You deal with it, while your car is in the garage for 6 weeks.

  • Example 2
  • If you failed to plan the route properly, and furthermore “forgot” to ensure you have the necessary car charge, – at 10% your car will be dialed by the BetterPlace call center, and you will be reminded “personally” and asked if you require further assistance. If you are in dire peril, the recovery vehicle will be sent to.. wait.. the ESTIMATED “0% charge” location, based on your GPS location and the current speed, along the current route. Hows THAT! No, seriously, Hows THAT!?

    Time to sign up?
    No I am not selling you the car nor i get any recommendations benefits. It is a mere researching the Green Tech and Electric Car ownership options out there.
    This is all my experience as EV user and as per interview with the BetterPlace scheme real life user.

    The unfortunate point to the above, as you have skimmed-read or dutifully read this article, not MANY residents in Israel are even aware of this scheme. The unfortunate fact is It lacks marketing in its host country.

    While it sounds all too good, alas very much enjoyed by some 800 scheme subscribers, who are mostly fleet users, the GREEN credibility as “alternative” does not quite catch on enough, just yet, despite “making sense” in sunny solar-energy-potental region.

    Cons.
    Here we are at the near end of the article and touching on the most “hushed” no-no talk. Drawbacks.
    Well, lets be honest, not everyone can cash out for the new car, even with LOAN options.
    In the world when we grew up with car driving noise, learned the car noises from the infant years, then we learn car driving, pass car driving, its hard to leave the classic attitude with all the life##Q##s conservative ways and part with hard earned cash to just “see” what happens. Assurances required, and my word* is never good enough.

    Here i can only encourage to actually go and TRY these options and make sense to yourself.

    One thing for certain you can drive from NORTH to SOUTH of the country… the SAME DAY, via all the battery swap station breaks (5 minute average stop time)

    What else, whats holding potential owners back? Future vision. I get a lot of that. No one wants to be the first to make this first step.
    I did. i dont look back. it was the time. fit the life style, – get ev.

    Trouble here is because the BetterPlace has some 800 users, it will require the same and more amount to make his more secure and money-making business scheme – its not a charity after all. So you will be “buying into” the BetterPlace idea. If all is well, – well, its all nice and dandy and as per all the happy points above, you##Q##re sitting pretty in the new car and low cost driving life style, and green ego of the elephant.

    Finally
    If everyone adapts this “i dont want to be first, lets someone ELSE try this first, before i go for this” this becomes a dangerous game of future bidding, and if this scheme above goes BUST, – well, infrastructure and support goes with it, – and you##Q##re on your own. Forget the long ranges. actually charging points are all installed by BetterPlace so in worst case scenario, you wont be able to go far from your house, leaping from friends house, to the next, with the long charging cable in the boot. Not pretty.

    But then again, hang on, – same here i am with my EV CZero. and to be honest i already DO have the long extension lean, and the conversion box, all JUST IN CASE, in my boot. The only difference is that this is the ONLY Israeli scheme, and in the UK, there are some 5+ EV charging system installer schemes. Competition is good.

    In the unlikely even of BetterPLace fail, i would not incite fear, with some much heavy investment into Electric Car Charging Infrastructure, yes, – something everyone complains there##Q##s lack of, in the UK, – it will be bought by some other GREEN firm. Considering the Israeli government is very keen to get dependency off OIL and improve the environment in the smallish country as it is, – there is much government backing, – personally in my opinion, BetterPlace has established itself well. So i would not dwell on worst case scenario, – dont waste time.

    Any questions anyone? Tweet or email me info@this-website-address

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