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Better Place secures $388 million in EV investment

Better still: New-generation electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf will benefit from Better Place's recharging network.

Electric vehicle network and Nissan-Renault partner set for global and Aussie launch

29 Jan 2010

ELECTRIC vehicle infrastructure provider and Nissan-Renault partner Better Place has secured $US350 million ($A388m) in its latest round of financing – fresh equity which the company claims is one of the largest clean-tech investments in history.

The equity deal, which involves nine investors in a consortium led by HSBC, now values Better Place at $US1.25 billion ($A1.39b), according to the company, and will be directed into new and existing programs including an EV recharging network across Australia – beginning with Canberra in 2012.

Better Place chief financial officer Charles Stonehill said the additional financial strength would broaden and deepen the company’s global activities.

“The resources will fund the next phase of research, development and testing, and will support deployment in early markets and allow for expansion into additional regions,” he said.

“Since the company was founded over two years ago, Better Place has maintained that the race to mass adoption of EVs would be a marathon, not a sprint. We are continuing at a fast and steady pace, and this major company milestone puts us in an unparalleled position to deliver a sustainable transportation system in our initial target markets and beyond.”

80 center imageLeft: Better Place chief financial officer Charles Stonehill.

Better Place plans to launch an EV infrastructure network with Renault in Israel and Denmark in 2011, with “early deployment projects” such as Canberra and similar networks in select North American markets coming online “a few months” later.

The company is also involved in an electric taxi program in Japan.

The first wave of Nissan-Renault electric vehicles will be seen in Australia with the Nissan Leaf and, perhaps, the Renault Fluence ZE in 2012.

The latter was one of four close-to-production ZE (zero emissions) concepts previewed at the Frankfurt motor show last September and coincided with an announcement that Renault and Better Place had committed to a volume of 100,000 Fluence ZEs for release in Israel and Denmark by 2016.

The first customer ‘subscriptions’ of these will commence in the first half of 2011.

The latest equity deal is the second round of financing for Better Place and includes $US125 million ($A139m) from HSBC. As part of the deal, HSBC will take a 10 per cent shareholding in Better Place and HSBC’s head of global capital financing, Kevin Adeson, will sit on the board.

Other new investors include Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management.

Better Place founder and chief executive Shai Agassi said: “Today marks the end of an extensive process with the outcome being a decision by one of the world’s largest, most conservative banks, HSBC, to take the validating step of investing in a private company intent on bringing innovation to the trillion-dollar automotive and energy industries.

“The strong investment commitment and global relationships that HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management bring to the table combined with the continuing confidence from our original investors enables us to scale up globally and execute against our plan.

“Our technology and solutions, together with our strong partnership with Renault, provide us at least a two-year time advantage over all other alternative energy vehicle approaches.

“Our solution is the only one that can scale to decrease countries’ oil consumption and significantly reduce emissions, while providing consumers with electric cars that are more convenient and affordable than internal combustion engine cars.”

Better Place EV infrastructure is just one type of network that will become available in global markets, including Australia.

However, HSBC, which is expected to also provide start-up assistance in Europe, China and other markets, is banking on it becoming a significant player and therefore worth such a large investment.

“We are confident that Better Place has the technical and commercial solutions to allow for the mass adoption of electric cars in the near-term,” Mr Adeson said.

“The Better Place switchable battery solution, which addresses the range limitation of fixed battery electric cars, will offer the consumer an affordable and attractive alternative to current combustion engine and hybrid vehicles.

“We expect the Better Place model to be widely adopted across many countries and cities, particularly in those markets with policies strongly favouring electric vehicle adoption.”

HSBC Holdings executive director and chief executive of global banking and markets Stuart Gulliver added that the company’s investment placed it at the heart of developments that tapped into “future growth opportunities” for the automotive and electricity utility industries.

“Better Place is a private-sector solution to the issue of infrastructure provision for electric cars and can succeed without government subsidy and without sacrificing consumer expectations for personal mobility,” he said.

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