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Project Better Place Might Charge Up SF

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is in talks with electric vehicle startup Project Better Place about building the infrastructure for a fleet of plug-in cars in the city, including parking meter charging stations and battery replacement stations.

Newsom traveled to Israel last week to meet with representatives of the company. The mayor’s office tells us that during a luncheon with Moshe Kaplinsky, CEO of Project Better Place Israel (pictured after the jump with the mayor), and Aliza Peleg, a rep from the startup’s U.S. offices, Newsom offered to work with Project Better Place if it would consider doing a test project in San Francisco. Newsom also met with the company’s chairman, Idan Offer, at a reception earlier.

The city is already in early talks with private companies that could potentially work with Project Better Place to build an electric vehicle infrastructure, according to the mayor’s office. Newsom was also said to be “very impressed” with the Project Better Place’s team in Israel.

If San Francisco does do a deal with Project Better Place, it would be the first city in the U.S. to get on board with Shai Agassi’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan (with three cars, San Francisco currently has one of the largest plug-in hybrid fleets in the country). This is the first we’ve heard of Project Better Place being in serious discussions stateside; we’ve tried to contact them for comment and when we hear back, will update the post.

Project Better Place also showed off a prototype of its electric vehicle in Israel over the weekend. But by then, Newsom had already jetted back to the States to speak at the New Yorker’s “Stories from the Near Future,” conference. In his talk, he described Project Better Place’s plans in Israel, saying that San Francisco wants “to be the first city [in the country] to adopt that strategy.”

Video courtesy of Israel21c. Golden Gate Bridge photo courtesy of http2007.

19 Responses to “Project Better Place Might Charge Up SF”

  1. Falstaff

    Jim, xrotaryguy –

    Battery cost per kWh:
    The cost per kWh figures you cite ($300/kWh) are for NiMH batteries, which because of the weight disadvantage are not practical for longer range BEVs as xrotaryguy indicates. PBP plans on ~100mi/ 160 km ranges so some variant of Li Ion technology is the best choice now. Currently projects like GM’s Volt price Li Ion at $600/kWh, but this is coming down. Thundersky for instance has provided $200/kWh prices to US researchers, and forecasters like Sandi National Labs show LiIon below $200/kWh at production rates of 3 million vehicles per year. Moreover this is essentially existing LiIon battery technology. We may expect 5x to 10x energy density improvements in the next 5 or 10 years from technology pioneered by researchers like Cui at Stanford, as readers of this website likely know.

    The Tesla uses a documented 17kWh/100km (106Wh/mi), 300Wh per mile is grossly high, closer to gas vehicle efficiency. And that is with 450kg of battery on board for its 220 mi range and a high acceleration performance EV drive train. The PBP 100mi pack appears to weigh 250kg, almost half so expect 17kWh/100km or better, likely 15 kWh/100km for the lower PBP vehicle weight.

    Lifecycle. The user of course doesn’t care about battery lifecycle in the PBP plan. Regarding the business model, Li Ion life is mediated by a number of factors including temperature and % change in state of charge, metrics controllable on these BEVs; they are not controlled on the average laptop so don’t look there for comparison. Also the newer phosphate chemistry improves charge cycles. So 4000 cycles or 100000 miles per PBP battery pack is no problem.

    Cost per mile:
    Given the above PBP design points and facts, we have a cost per mile:
    160km * 15kWh/100km * $200/kWh / 100,000miles/battery-pack = $0.048/mile, or just as PBP claims. On top of that PBP needs to finance the exchange stations, and some overhead of batteries for the stations, but this is easily paid for at less than $0.01/mile by the vehicles in plan on the road. Energy is less than $0.03/mile, so the energy + battery cost /mile is easily on par with gas vehicles at $60/bbl-oil, and that is only going up over the medium term.

  2. Craig Rubens


    Nothing official. Better Place has been quite mum, although Mayor Newsom is very excited.

    The latest news is SF has closed its requests for information concerning an electrified car infrastructure and Better Place was among the companies that submitted a pitch.

    Read more about it here: 19 Electric Car Players Pitch San Francisco.

    And we’ll be sure to bring the latest news as this continues to develop.

  3. Hi Jim,

    $500 per KWh is a bit high depending on the type of battery pack and misleading (though not intentionally I’m sure) regardless of battery chemistry. My battery pack is 12 KWh and it cost me exactly $1,000. I admit that I got a screamin’ deal on batteries. Nay, I BRAG that I got a screamin’ deal on my batteries. However, most people spend somewhere closer to $3,000 for a 15 KWh battery pack. That’s $200 per KWh. This type of battery pack would be good for about 30 to 40 miles.

    Now, if you want to talk about a longer range EV with a 100 to 150 mile range, you need to look at Li ion. One year ago I priced out a 35 KWh LiFePO4 pack from Thundersky. That pack would have cost me $35,000. Ouch! About a week ago I calculated that the same battery pack from the same manufacturer would cost $18,000. In short, manufacturing capacity is going up, and the price is coming down fast! China actually increased its Li ion manufacturing capacity by 28% last year and now manufactures more Li ion batteries than Japan.

    This is why your $500 / KWh is misleading regardless of chemistry. The price will be much lower than that in only a few short years. Project Better Place, Tesla, Nissan, Aptera and many others will be driving that price down even faster once they get their cars into production.

    Technically Tesla already has its Roadster in production.

    Furthermore, Thundersky claims that its batteries are good for 3,000 cycles (Thundersky does not make the best battery on the market. A123’s batteries will last even longer). The average motorist drives about 12,000 miles per year. That means that the car will go about 120,000 miles before it needs a new battery pack.

    How much money will you save by buying electricity instead of gasoline after 120,000 miles? Assuming 0.5 KWh/mi and $0.09/KWh a person will only spend $5,400 on energy over the course of 10 years. If that person were to buy gas at $4.00/gal in a car that gets 25 mpg, he would spend $19,200 in 10 years on gasoline. Well, looks like the battery still ends up costing slightly more. $4,200 to be exact.

    However, do recall that battery costs are falling FAST and that gasoline costs are rising FAST. Project Better Place realizes this and they’re planning for the future. The batteries that they’re using will almost certainly make electric cars cheaper than gasoline cars in two years or less.

  4. David J. Mausolf

    The automotive and energy players have largely already decided against battery swapping technology. Except for Nissan, which hopes to control the market with its vehicles there will be limited demand for battery swapping technologies. A PHEV-40 system such as the Chevrolet Volt should account for at least 70% of the daily driving needs of most U.S. consumers, while the consumer retains control of the vehicle. Additionally, PBP missed its chance to work with utilities on developing smart recharging technology. As a result, most utilities such as Xcel Energy are working with smart charging systems such as V2Green’s which utilize a Level 1 or 2 charging system.

  5. Some numbers. Let’s assume batteries cost $500/kw-hr (which is very low) and they can last for 2000 charge cycles (also optimistic). Now assume 300 watt-hours per mile for vehicle use (also reasonable).

    Now crank the math. That works out to 7.5 cents per mile FOR JUST THE BATTERIES! That leaves no money for the rest of the car, no money for the electricity, and no money for the infrastructure needed.

    The numbers cited by PBB simply make no sense, unless they’ve invented the miracle battery. If so, they should just sell that.

  6. If Project Better Place published their business plan in English, more people would be able to see that their claim of 7 cents per mile in cost is not credible.