Better Place Unveils First Pricing Plan; Will Consumers Bite?

Bettere Place Inc. today announced its first pricing plans, and anyone following the electrical vehicle market should take a close look.

Better Place lets customers swap their rundown electric car batteries with fresh ones at service stations it is building. It also will monitor and meter electricity to customers for charging cars at home and work. Just purchase an electric car, without a battery, and sign up for a Better Place service plan.

The pricing plans announced today are for Denmark, where taxes drive the price of gas well above its price in the United States. For a driver who covers more than 40,000 kilometers a year (25,000 miles) the monthly fee for electricity, the use of a battery and battery swaps is $399 euros ($556). Someone who covers half that distance or less can choose between plans costing $277 to $377 a month.

On top of the plans, a Danish driver must buy the new Renault Fluence Z.E. (pictured), which itself costs $38,000 — more than the Nissan Leaf, but less than the Chevy Volt (without the battery that both these include).

While these charges may seem high, it is important to keep in mind the high cost of gasoline and autos in Denmark. A comparable gasoline-powered car can cost $56,000.

A Better Place spokesman says the total cost of ownership should be 10% to 20% for a Better Place customer. The question is whether that will be enough to convince consumers to sign up.

Better Place, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is led by former SAP President Shai Agassi and has raised $550 million in venture backing to date, including $350 million last April from VantagePoint Venture Partners, HSBC, Lazard Asset Management and Morgan Stanley Private Equity.