In the weeks following the announcement of Israeli electric vehicle battery-swapping company Better Place, on May 26th, industry experts have paused to reflect on the impact which this development has on the future of the electric vehicle industry. In the immediate aftermath of Better Place’s collapse the media narrative seemed to be guided by an overtly pessimistic tone which, while based in a shared disappointment regarding the failure of such a utopisitic vision, nonetheless seemed to quickly jump to predicting doom for the entire industry. However, a second wave of experts has begun to contribute to the discussion over the last week, offering a more positive perspective.

Firstly, some analysts have questioned even the conclusion that a battery-swapping concept is impractical and EV development will depend on the perfection of quick-charge systems, which would enable EV charging stations to serve as simple, quick-stop service points in the form familiar to owners of gas-fueled cars, or a resolution of range issues altogether through an expansion of capacity. Ron Adner, writing in the Harvard Business Review, suggests that many critics and commentators may have drawn the wrong conclusions from Better Place’s failure, locating the failure less in the concept or technology but in a flawed roll-out process and pace. Adner, through conversations with executives of Better Place over the last three years, concludes that one of the core flaws in the company’s approach to expansion was its rapid pace, a speed which ultimately placed a fatal strain on the company’s resources which Adner believes to have been unnecessary given the strong performance of its first two markets in Israel and Denmark.

Joining Adner in the chorus of support for the EV industry’s future is Gal Luft a senior advisor to the United States Energy Security Council, who comes to a similar conclusion regarding the causes of Better Place’s failure, ones due to business model and approach rather than industry conditions, and goes on to argue that the future remains promising for EVs. Luft acknowledges that the recent string of highly publicized, often publicly funded, failures which has taken down a number of the more high-profile electrification upstarts (Fisker, Coda Automotive, and A123 Systems) has cast a dark shadow on the industry in stark contrast to the blue sky optimism evident only a few years ago. However, he goes on to highlight a number of players still alive and competitive in the industry, such as Tesla Motors which continues to increase its value and annual performance, and the promise they bring.

Furthermore, Luft’s central message is the incredibly fast pace of technology adoption which the EV industry is currently undergoing, one which, when compared to the adoption curve of a vast number of today’s most common place technologies (such as the television, personal computer, or even the cell phone), signals a continued rise for the technology as it continues to mature. The rapidly maturing technology and promising adoption curve are further bolstered by the positive word spreading forth from early adopters, which Luft claims has been overwhelmingly positive, so why does development seem to be stalling? Luft suggests that the major force preventing the industry’s continued rise is the ever crucial aspect of government support, referencing the combative political atmosphere which continues to distort public opinion and limit funding in the United States as well as many European countries.

Through the considered analyses of these industry experts we can see that our hope for future success is not nearly as unfounded as early reactions appeared to imply, however this hope must be coupled with a strong effort to shift public opinion towards EVs and thus create a climate more conducive to public funding and political support for this development.

Read more: "Don't Draw the Wrong Lessons from Better Place's Bust" (Ron Adner, Prof. of strategy at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College)

Gal Luft (senior adviser to the United States Energy Security Council) "Better Place May Be Dead, But the Electric Car Isn't"

All Analysis & Synthesis Posts