Better Place Fuels Up With $350M, Focuses on 2011

If you’ve been following the moves of electric vehicle infrastructure maker Better Place over the years then you’re well aware that its world ambitions will need a lot of capital. On Monday morning the company announced that it is raising a whopping $350 million in a series B round to help it build out its network of charging and battery swap stations across nations like Israel and Denmark. That’s one of the largest rounds for cleantech ever, and is similar in size to the massive fund-raising done by thin film solar company Solyndra. Better Place has now raised about $750 million.

Better Place’s latest round will be led by HSBC Group, which will put in a whopping $125 million and will own 10 percent of the company’s shares. The round also will include new investors Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Lazard Asset Management, and existing investors Israel Corp., VantagePoint Venture Partners, Ofer Hi-Tech Holdings, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments, and Maniv Energy Capital, among others. Better Place’s Chief Financial Officer Charles Stonehill said the funding “goes a long way toward validating and enabling,” their business model.

Better Place says it will be using the funds to continue deployments in countries where it is currently working — Israel, Denmark, Australia, and Hawaii — and also to expand into markets “in Europe and Asia.” Founder and CEO Shai Agassi (one of our Earth2Tech Top 15 Connected Car Influencers) said on a media call this morning that the company is planning to deploy between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations for both Israel and Denmark (previously he’s also said hundreds of thousands of charging stations would be required per country).

It’s telling that Better Place is now focusing its efforts on launches in Israel and Denmark in 2011, instead of some of its previous estimates to have technology ready in late 2010 (particularly the now little talked about Bay Area network plan). Renault’s battery-swappable electric vehicle is supposed to widely available in 2011, and by then Better Place hopes to have enough infrastructure built out so that its first vehicles from the Renault car partnership will be able to operate smoothly.

Better Place is already building out electric vehicle charging points around Denmark so that the small amount of Danish EV owners can start using the chargers and sign up for the service. In December Better Place’s Director of Communications in Denmark, Sara Helweg-Larsen, told us that there are currently 55 Better Place electric vehicle charging stations installed in Denmark. Agassi said on the media call that in Israel the first commercial battery swap station is undergoing extensive testing and can swap a battery in 2-minutes.

This latest funding won’t be the last capital to flow toward Better Place. As in any infrastructure-heavy play, the capital needed will be enormous. The company raised $200 million for its Israeli network and eventually plans to raise $1 billion to complete that project. For the Danish project Better Place has raised €103 million ($135.8 million) partly from state-controlled DONG Energy in the form of equity and convertible debt and plans to raise more money for that network, too. Renault is investing up to $1 billion into making electric vehicles with swappable batteries.