21 January 2013 – UPDATED 5.47 pm – Individual electric vehicle servicing companies such as Better Place may be going through predictable teething problems, such as last week’s parting of ways with new chief executive Evan Thornley, but Europe is investing in growth for the sector.

A consortium of European companies, DNV KEMA, Fraunhofer ISE, EMD International, RAH and RFVV,  said this week it has started work on the Novel E-Mobility Grid Model or NEMO project which would be key to the development of smart grids in view of the “rapidly rising” number of electric vehicles in Europe.

NEMO has been commissioned by the European Union’s ERA-NET Plus initiative, Electromobility+, which aims to create a sustainable framework for electromobility in Europe.

Better Place, is struggling

Meanwhile Better Place, is struggling. CEO Evan Thornley left last week, only three months after starting the job and after international chief executive officer Shai Agassi was sacked last year.

“In recent times, strong and honestly held differences have emerged at the most senior levels of the company about how we best take the company forward,” Thornley told media outlets.  “I do not wish to be a barrier to that unity and so will step down and let the company transition to new leadership.”

  • UPDATE: Do public charging stations help drive EV adoption, or does greater EV adoption demand a more comprehensive public charging infrastructure? It could be that the whole idea is people can plug in at home…and avoid the fuelling station altogether… read the whole story in Greenbizz

According to Green Prophet, the turmoil has led the Renault Group to look for new alternatives to the battery switching concept as devised by Better Place.

A solution may be production of a less expensive electric car, the ZOE, a car which travels up to 130 kilometres on a full charge and sells for around US$21,600.

“Although it does not have switchable battery like the Renault Fluence Z.E., it does have a battery that can be “quick charged” to 80 per cent of its full charge strength in only 30 minutes.

“Whether these cars will eventually arrive in places like Israel where electric cars are catching on and other parts of the Middle East where people are eco-aware will depend on consumer demand and the development of electric car infrastructure networks like the one Better Place is installing in Israel.” Read the whole story.

Greentech said Better Place chairman Idan Ofer, whose Israel Corp. is the company’s largest shareholder, will assume the post of executive chairman. In a statement the company said Ofer, Israel‘s richest person, will “manage external relationships and alliances for Better Place, while Alan Gelman, Global CFO for Better Place, will manage day-to-day operations.”

The latest shakeup comes as Better Place struggles to gain traction in Israel and Denmark for its network of battery switch stations. Subscribers buy electric Renault Fluence .E sedans but Better Place owns the batteries and charges a monthly fee for the kilometers driven.

Reuters said investors have been unhappy with the California-based operator’s sluggish sales.

Chief financial officer and head of operations for Better Place in Israel Alan Gelman said, “We at times were too focused on turning into a global company and expanded too fast, but we have to focus on local operations and selling cars.”

However, he said that the company had turned a corner in recent weeks with large sales to fleets.

“We have gained a lot of momentum of late and we are selling a lot more cars. The days of not selling cars are over,” he said.