Imagine a brave new future in which the world’s motorways are punctuated with stopping off points where cars low on juice can fill up the tank again, allowing intrepid drivers to make journeys hundreds of miles long. Doesn’t sound particularly futuristic, does it?
But I’m not talking petrol pumps here. I’m talking electric batteries. Picture a network of electric service stations and suddenly the prospect shimmers magically and leaps several decades forward into the mists of time.
For one firm with vaulting ambitions though, stations where drivers could swap their cars’ spent electric batteries for fresh ones were a living reality in Israel and Denmark.
The stations in the two nations had completed 15,000 battery exchanges by July last year. But there were clearly problems afoot when Better Place’s founder Shai Agassi quit as CEO and severed ties with his firm just a few months later in October. Another two new CEOs in less than six months were another sign – in hindsight – the hazard light was about to go on.
Even since the business applied for liquidation on Sunday, the tagline on the Israeli firm’s website has declared optimistically: “We don’t make electric cars. We make electric cars make sense.”
Their dream was as unlimited in range as its hopes for electric cars. Unfortunately for them, it made no sense to keep operating when they weren’t making enough money.
Where did it all go wrong? There will always be firms who fall by the wayside in pursuit of the next big tech breakthrough. Perhaps this was just part of the great technology cycle.
More likely we’re just not ready – even in the greenest of nations – to embrace electric cars and hang up the keys to our fuel-powered motors.
Will another firm rise to carry on their intentions? It would take a big punt, bigger guts and an even bigger wallet. The trouble is I fear we’re not that big into the whole electric car thing…yet!