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Better Place retreat stalls Renault Fluence EV

“With Better Place winding down in Australia, we can’t give that flexibility to customers, so we’ve postponed it indefinitely.”

...Better Place’s decision to freeze its investment in Australia.

The electric Renault was to have cost around $40,000, excluding the price of leasing the battery from Better Place. Lease deals entitled the owner to be able to pull in to a Better Place battery-swap station and exchange the pack for a fully charged one in what the company predicted would be around the same time it takes to refill a petrol-powered vehicle.

The energy provider launched in 2011 with a plan to roll-out a national network of recharge points and battery-swap sites but this week announced it was withdrawing from Australia and the US to focus on the Israel and Denmark markets, where it has a more extensive recharge infrastructure.

The press release also says Better Place will look for someone to take over existing customers in Australia, noting the company “is committed to finding alternative arrangements for existing customers in these markets”.

Better Place is best-represented in Canberra, where 13 charge points are installed. Significantly for Renault, there are no battery-swap stations - and the Fluence ZE was specifically designed with a removable battery pack for “hot-swap” convenience. Renault Australia spokeswoman Emily Ambrosy says the Fluence ZE has been postponed “until further notice.”

“The Fluence ZE launch was predicated around being able to recharge and swap batteries,” she says. “With Better Place winding down in Australia, we can’t give that flexibility to customers, so we’ve postponed it indefinitely.”

A Renault press release says the company still believes in the future of electric vehicles and “will continue working towards the introduction of Renault-brand EV models in the future.” The most likely candidate is the Zoe, which is Renault’s well-shaped city car based on the Nissan Leaf powertrain and should arrive in Australia next year.

GM Holden also had a deal with Better Place to provide electricity for its range-extending Volt. Holden says but isn’t as exposed due to Volt’s ability to recharge overnight off the domestic electric plug. Upgrading to 15 amp-powerpoints halves the time and Holden spokeswoman Shayna Welsh says new customers can contact ChargePoint and GE to install dedicated “quick-charge” units in homes, giving potential Volt owners a range of options.

“Customers who have taken delivery of their home charge stations can continue to use them and receive power. We’re working through those issue with Better Place now, she says.”