Better Place vet offers cautionary advice to Oregon EV cluster

A battery switch station operated by Better Place in the Netherlands.
Courtesy Better Place

A battery switch station operated by Better Place in the Netherlands. 

One of the first employees hired at electric vehicle infrastructure company Better Place, Shahaf Kieselstein helped lead the development of one of the hottest venture-backed cleantech companies in the world.

He left shortly before the company's fortunes took a turn and before the visionary founder, Shai Aggasi, was replaced as CEO last October.

Kieselstein is now a general manager for Intel's client connectivity division and took some time Wednesday to speak at an event cosponsored by the electric vehicle industry group Drive Oregon and the Oregon Israel Business Alliance.

Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski kicked off the program, exhorting those in attendance to continue to support the electric vehicle industry. Kulongoski had a strong hand in the formation of Drive Oregon, which is funded by the state.

Oregon's electric vehicle sector has seen nothing like the likes of Better Place, which was based in Palo Alto, Calif., but has a major operation in Israel and has established headquarters in Tel Aviv. The company raised close to $1 billion in venture capital and had ambitious plans to build out an electric vehicle infrastructure that would favor a combination of home charging stations and strategically placed battery-swapping stations over roadside chargers.

The stations were installed throughout Israel and in pilot programs in Europe, Australia and Hawaii. A pilot program in California is testing the system with a handful of electric taxi cabs. Kieselstein explained that the system, up and running in Israel after four years in development, delivered a car โ€” an EV made by Renault โ€” that could be acquired and operated at a fraction of the cost of a gas-powered car. Smart software programs automated the process of measuring trips, estimating the need for a battery swap and locating a battery-swap facility where robots would make the switch in a matter of five minutes, sending drivers on their way with another 100 miles of driving range under the hood.

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