Chastened by Market, Better Place Sweetens Deal for Electric Car Buyers

Better deal offered because company had problems breaking into the consumer market, said industry sources.

After five years of preparations, Shai Agassi's electric car vision has reached the consumer market - with a number of last-minute changes. Better Place announced new plans for consumers on Sunday as it started selling cars not only to vehicle fleets but also to private customers.

Better Place launched its first advertising campaign this week offering the general public its Renault Fluence ZE electric car, and is also offering consumers simplified payment plans for using and charging the cars, based on the number of kilometers traveled. The reason the company is offering new customers a simpler and better deal is the problems Better Place has had breaking into the consumer market, said industry sources.

Customers now have the choice of two plans. The first includes the purchase of between 40,000 and 80,000 kilometers over three years - at a price of 55 agorot per kilometer - with a commitment in advance. Until now, Better Place offered this option only for four years and a minimum of 80,000 kilometers, which put off many customers who felt this was too great a long-term commitment. Better Place expects most customers to sign up for this plan as the average Israeli drives 17,500 kilometers a year, and for new cars, up to five years old, the figure is 20,600 kilometers per year. Better Place is also promising that the prices will not rise during the three-year commitment period.

The second package is called Pay As You Go, and customers will pay 65 agorot per kilometer with a minimum of 1,000 kilometers per month. This plan will replace the previous packages which included 20,000-30,000 kilometers a year at a fixed price of NIS 1,090 to NIS 1,600 a month. The change resulted from customers' preference for packages without a set commitment.

The new fixed prices represent a slight price cut from the previous packages, which cost between 64 and 68 agorot per kilometer.

The cost of gas for a family-sized sedan is estimated at 69.8 agorot per kilometer, based on the widely-accepted price list published by Heshev Information Systems. This would mean savings of up to NIS 2,600 over the three years for an average family sedan - though this of course could change dramatically depending on changes in gasoline prices.

Better Place says its customers will also save a lot of money on other costs, such as the low price for maintenance of the electric cars, since they come with a full manufacturer's warranty for four years, as well as their road service package.

The Fluence comes in seven colors. After the tax breaks for "green cars," the price will be NIS 121,200 for the standard model and NIS 128,100 for one with more accessories. Customers will also no longer require a three-month advance notice period before ending their commitments, and now will be able to cancel the package at any time without penalties if they want to sell the car, but the battery will remain the property of Better Place. If the customer wants to buy the battery too, that will cost another NIS 77,000.

Better Place also plans to start offering trade-in services soon.

The company has already installed some 1,500 charging points for the general public, and will open 38 battery changing stations by September. Carasso Motors, the official importer of Renault cars, will service the vehicles.

Demo model at Better Places sales office.
Tomer Appelbaum