Last week, Better Place’s CEO Shai Agassi told CNET his company signed up 20,000 people in Israel for its electric car plan.
We’ve since learned that Better Place hasn’t signed up 20,000 customers–the number Agassi has said will allow it to operate at a profit.
Rather it has a dozen Israeli corporations committed in writing to participate in the program. This might be a slight semantic sticking point, but we consider it significant.
We want to know what Better Place intends to charge subscribers. While the company is still two years away from deployment, it should have an idea about how much it will charge.
With the massive capital expenditure needed to build new charging infrastructure, and the pricey idea of supplying energy from clean sources like wind and solar, presumably subscribing to Better Place’s electricity plan will be expensive.
When the CEO says 20,000 people are on board with the plan, we assume they’ve been told how much it will cost. Apparently not.
According to Mike Granoff, head of Oil Independence Policies for Better Place, “most cars in Israel are company owned — given to employees as perks. So it’s a few dozen companies that have committed, in writing, to be subscribers in 2011.”
Granoff emailed us after our last post to take issue with our doubts about Better Place, saying: “What Shai was saying is that Better Place can be profitable and successful on a lot lower volume of vehicles than Renault and Nissan intend to build. We cannot get to our mission — ending oil — if more car makers do not step up. However, we are confident enough in our approach that as soon as it is proven — whether that means this year when we begin testing the full system, or in two years when we have satisfied paying subscribers — others will join.”
When we pressed him to tell us what the company would charge customers, all he would say is that “the principle is that we compete against gasoline.” In Israel, that’s an easier sell, as gas prices are high, but he wouldn’t say what price the company projects for gasoline.
Maybe once Better Place gets a handle on the costs of this massive project, then it’ll be able to say how much it’ll cost drivers. Until then, it’ll be mostly double talk about subscribers and dreams about ending the world’s use of oil.
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