Official Electric-car Policy Gives Better Place the Edge

The Israel Electric Corporation will be limited to offering charging in public areas; private charging companies such as Better Place will have a monopoly over the private charging stations in malls, gas stations, parking lots and office buildings.

Daniel Schmil
Daniel Schmil
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Daniel Schmil
Daniel Schmil

Shai Agassi's Better Place electric-car initiative may be awarded a big advantage when the environmentally-friendly vehicles reach Israel. The Infrastructure Ministry released a policy document on charging electric vehicles this week, and the changes from the draft version of two months ago favor the companies offering charging services such as Better Place.

The losers appear to be automobile importers, who favored a system where anyone could hook up their electric car to a wall plug at home and charge up. But the ministry plans to forbid such home charging and require electric-car owners to "fill up" their batteries at special charging stations only.

In addition, the Israel Electric Corporation will be limited to offering charging in public areas. Private charging companies such as Better Place will have a monopoly over the private charging stations in malls, gas stations, parking lots and office buildings. Private firms may also set up charging stations in public areas, though it's not clear how many companies will enter the market.

The first chargeable electric cars are expected to arrive in Israel later this year. Drivers will be required to subscribe to a charging service and the IEC will only provide electricity to the private companies.

The policy document states that drivers will be able to use any charging station - but it's not clear they will pay equal rates for the electricity. Subscribers will probably pay less to their charging firms than non-subscribers, a move that will favor large providers with many charging points.

The system will also require so-called managed charging in which every car is identified before charging. This would allow the state to tax the electricity used for transportation, in lieu of a fuel tax.

The charging stations, or pillars, will be owned by the private companies and can be used by both fully electric cars or rechargeable hybrids with both gasoline and electric engines. Charging companies may also limit service to non-subscribers at peak hours. The document only represents the position of the Infrastructure Ministry and other ministries such as finance, environmental protection and transportation - as well as the Antitrust Authority. Antitrust officials say they are in contact with the Infrastructure Ministry and will give a comment soon. The Transportation Ministry said it was studying the matter and would also comment. Better Place said it was studying the document and would open its charging network to all.

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