Shai Agassi seems to be doing okay when it comes to raising money in a tough market. Better Place and Danish partner Dong Energy announced today the closing of a $134 million (U.S.) financing — a combination of equity and convertible debt. The funds will go toward building out Denmark’s electric-car charging network in advance of the introduction of Better Place-compliant vehicles in two years. “Starting in 2011 through the extensive network, The Renault-Nissan Alliance will begin to commercialize a complete range of EVs especially adapted to Danish customer requirements,” the companies said in a statement. “These cars will benefit from the Better Place mobility services and products.”
Of course, we shouldn’t assume Better Place is the only EV-charging game in town. There are other companies, such as Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb Technologies, going after the same market with a different — and less flashy — approach.
I want to believe the Ontario government is serious about pursuing the electric car opportunity, and that the partnership announced yesterday with Better Place isn’t just a PR exercise — a classic case of greenwashing. There was no investment, by either the government or Better Place. All that was really announced is that the two sides will study what it will take to accelerate the manufacture and introduction of electric cars and deployment of the charging and “battery swap” infrastructure needed to support them. It’s a start, I suppose — which is exactly what Premier Dalton McGuinty emphasized. And sure, the education and demonstration centre Better Place plans to set up will be important as a tool to introduce the general public to the benefits of electric cars — to literally kick the tires. As McGuinty said: “One of the most important things we can do is demonstrate we are truly an electric-car friendly jurisdiction.”
Can’t disagree with that. Continue reading Is Ontario serious about Better Place?
Seems the talks I reported on last summer between the Ontario government and Better Place have proven fruitful. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and auto industry officials, as well as Better Place’s Shai Agassi, will host a conference call/press conference at 10:30 a.m. (EST) in Toronto this morning to discuss a new partnership with Better Place. This adds Ontario to a list that includes Denmark, Israel, Australia and California.
Details to come, but for background here’s a story I wrote for the Toronto Star back in September.
UPDATE: A few bullet points from Better Place’s announcement…
- It appears to be a symbolic commitment. Very early days. No money has changed hands, though there has been handshakes.
- Better Place will set up its Canadian head office in Ontario.
- It will also establish an electric vehicle demonstration and education centre in Toronto.
- The government will do a comprehensive study, to be released in May, that will look at ways to accelerate the manufacture and deployment of electric vehicles.
- Better Place will at the same time come up with a charging-network plan and estimated timeline for building it out. This will also, presumably, estimate costs.
- Toronto-based “green electricity” retailer Bullfrog Power has partnered with Better Place as its electricity provider, though it’s unclear where this partnership will actually lead.
I’ll be writing a more detailed story for the Toronto Star, so check back for the link tomorrow.