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 January 24, 2012
Better Place launches electric car battery-swap model in Israel

 Better Place has delivered the first 100 electric cars taking part in its high-profile battery swap scheme for Israeli customers.

Four years after former SAP director Shai Agassi announced it would begin its first commercial operation in Israel, the company handed over the keys of the Renault Fluence Z.E. cars as part of the first step in a staged rollout across the country.

Better Place plans to target fleet owners initially, with deliveries to the general public beginning in the second quarter of 2012 as recharging infrastructure across the country is completed. In 2010, Better Place claimed to have 92 companies signed up, including Motorola and Computer Associates, with a combined target to roll out 45,000 cars.

About 200 battery-swapping and recharge stations are due to be installed in Israel to cater for the cars, which can travel about 140 miles before the battery needs to be replaced or recharged.

"The first wave of electric cars is the ultimate proof that the change is here," Moshe Kaplinsky, chief executive of Better Place Israel, said in a statement.

Next on the list for the fast-expanding Better Place is Denmark, while early-stage plans for an Australian network are also in the pipeline. In addition, the company last year opened its first showroom in China.

In related news, computing giant IBM is working on a battery that could allow electric vehicles to travel 500 miles on a single charge, a development that would revolutionise the market for zero-emissions cars.

Rather than using the lithium-ion technology common in most of today's electric cars, IBM is working towards a new type of lithium-air battery it claims could improve energy density tenfold.

The technology promises to dramatically increase the amount of energy batteries can produce and store, potentially overcoming the "range anxiety" problem that has dogged the take-up of electric vehicles.

IBM physicist Winfried Wilcke said the company has identified a "very promising" electrolyte material that could lead to a working lithium-air battery prototype as early as next year.