TEL AVIV, Feb 7 (Reuters) - At least 45,000 electric cars will be running on Israeli roads within five years, according to a company called Better Place which is building networks of charging stations in Israel, Denmark and Australia.
Better Place said on Sunday it had signed up 92 corporate fleet owners in Israel to rotate in electric vehicles when leases expire in coming years. Cars will start running under the programme in Israel in 2011.
“That’s one-third of the fleet and half the fleet cars,” Shai Agassi, Better Place’s founder and chief executive, told Reuters after an event to open a centre in Israel to showcase the prototype cars and its electric technology.
Better Place’s concept is for battery-swapping stations to complement a network of charge spots so electric cars can extend their range without the need of an additional back-up engine that burns fossil fuel.
Agassi noted that the top 280 fleets in Israel comprise some 100,000 cars. “By 2020 there will be more electric cars sold per year than gas (petrol) cars,” he said.
The Renault/Nissan-made (RENA.PA) (7201.T) electric cars — which will be manufactured in Turkey — will be available in Israel next year following tests later in 2010. Sales will be limited to 1,000 cars per month.
“We believe this has real potential,” said Nicholas Remise, a manager for Renault’s electric car programme, adding that past failures of electric cars to find market success were due to a lack of infrastructure.
Agassi noted Better Place was in talks with other automakers but declined to say if or when any deals would be made.
U.S.-based Better Place last month received a $350 million infusion led by HSBC (HSBA.L) and Morgan Stanley Investment Management (MS.N), putting the value of the company at $1.25 billion. [ID:nLDE60O0ZO]
“We think there will be extremely large demand and Better Place can rapidly achieve profitability,” HSBC’s Mark Norbury told reporters on Sunday. “We like Better Place’s business model.”
Agassi said most of Denmark was already set up with charging stations. Israel has about 1,000 such stations and a number of Dor Alon gas stations across the country will have a lane where the heavy 250-kilo battery can be changed should drivers reach the maximum range of 160 kilometers.
By next year, there will be tens of thousands of stations in Israel. “We are reinventing a $3 trillion a year market,” Agassi said.
He believes electric car prices will be far lower than comparable gas-powered autos, partly due to tax incentives. Taxes on electric cars in Israel will be 10 percent compared with a minimum of 82 percent for gas cars. In Denmark, where taxes on autos are 180 percent, there will be no taxes on electric cars.
Included in the price of the car will be a charging station that will be installed at the customers’ home and work. Prices will be announced later in 2010. (Editing by David Holmes)