Why do electric cars with a 100 mile range and battery swapping stations seem so appealing in Israel?
Because, in most cases, if you can't drive 100 miles in a shot without ending up in the sea or enemy territory.
But that's not the only reason Better Place has reconfirmed its plan to set up electric car fleets and charging stations with large corporations in that country. Fleet buyers reduce the number of charging stations required. Fleet cars often drive predictable routes in circumscribed territories. They also come back to home base, where the charging station can be located, once or more times during the day and invariably spend a night in the garage. The fleet owners, moreover, can track the health of the batteries. Monolithic control like this eases concerns both range anxiety and battery anxiety, two problems Better Place will have with consumers.
The company has 1,000 charging stations in Israel right now but wants to build 15,000 to 20,000 before 2011 hits. It has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. However, until it starts its "services", i.e. leasing batteries and letting people charge at its stations, until 2011, it may not pull much in in terms of revenue from its charging stations--that's one of the challenges it faces. In the meantime, Better Place is exploiting its network know-how to create simulations that reduce the need for charging stations. This could turn into a full-flown software and consulting group. If anything, it'd be easier than building charging stations.
Meanwhile, AMEE, a carbon accounting firm that is also one of Radiohead's favorite green companies, pulled in $5.5 million in a Series B round of funding. We spoke to CEO Gavin Starks back in the middle of 2008. Then, only a few carbon accounting firms existed. Now, the landscape is littered with them, some acquisitions have occured, and some comanies like Hara have landed big name accounts. My, how things change.
And in Ithaca, New York, AeroFarms raised $500,000 from the Quercus Trust and 21Ventures. David Gelbaum, the secretive investor behind Quercus, had to curtail his charitable donations in 2009 due to downturns in his green investment. AeroFarms specializes in hydroponics, a water-based type of farming which many want to see move beyond pot growers. AeroFarms can stack growing beds vertically so farming can take place in urban environments and buildings.Valcent, a Texas company that's been an algae advocate, is also working on vertical farming. A secretive start-up in Oakland wants to mix hydroponics and aquaculture, which would let the fish fertilize the plant.
This marks the 48th investment of the Quercus Trust, by my count.