Better Place gleans €40m loan from EIB to develop electric car networks

28 Aug 2012

A Better Place battery switch station in Israel

California venture-backed company Better Place has secured a €40m loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) as it starts to set its sights on expanding its electric car infrastructure in Europe, particularly in Denmark.

Based in Palo Alto, California, Better Place was set up in 2007 and is led by the Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi. The company is building the technology infrastructure and systems to support the move to more sustainable transport using electric cars, particularly in Israel and Denmark.

In Demark for instance Better Place has installed a network of battery switch stations to connect the cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus for EV drivers. Such stations work via a robotic system to switch new batteries for depleted ones when drivers make a pit stop.

Better Place is venture backed by the likes of investors such as HSBC and Israel Corporation. To date it has raised more than US$750m of equity financing.

According to the company, the €40m loan from the EIB signals its first-ever credit facility from a financial institution. Better Place said that the majority of the loan – circa €30m – will now be used to finalise network deployments and fund operations in Denmark. Apparently the remaining €10m will be used for similar deployments in Israel.

“The credit facility gives us a more flexible, balanced capital structure that allows us to expand our operations without solely relying on equity,” said Agassi in a company statement today.

He pointed to how the company would be looking to continue its collaboration with the EIB as its European operations grow.

Better Place is also part of the European Commission’s electromobility project Green eMotion, which is being co-ordinated by Siemens. Here in Ireland ESB ecars is a member of Green eMotion, which has 43 partners in Europe.

“Our goal is to continue to work with European institutions and partners who share our vision for electric transport so that one day you can drive from Copenhagen to Paris in a fully electric car by switching batteries along the way,” said Agassi.

“The Copenhagen-Paris corridor is 1,220 kilometers, which is about the same distance I recently drove in a trip across Israel in a Renault Fluence Z.E., switching batteries without stopping to charge,” he added.

Israel has been Better Place’s first market where it has installed more than half of its planned battery switch stations. According to the company in Denmark and Israel combined it has over 500 Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars with switchable batteries now on the roads.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic