Business Model Innovation by Better Place: A Green Ecosystem for the Mass Adoption of Electric Cars

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Third prize in oikos Global Case Writing Competition 2010 - Corporate Sustainability Track.

Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR378 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Business model innovation / Social entrepreneurship / Sustainable transportation services / Renewable energy / Electric cars
Case Length : 22 Pages
Period : 2007-2009
Pub Date : 2010
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Better Place
Industry : Auto and Ancillaries
Countries : Global


Shai Agassi started Better Place with the ambition of setting up an ecosystem -- including a 'smart grid' of charging stations and battery swapping facilities -- for electric vehicles. These charging stations were to be powered by electricity generated from renewable sources to eliminate indirect emissions due to the operation of electric cars. Better Place also partnered with governments, parking lot operators, and companies to install charging stations. This ecosystem was expected to eliminate the barriers to the mass adoption of electric cars for personal transportation. This case discusses the innovative business model of Better Place, which proposed to offer transportation services to consumers through miles per month subscription plans, with the cost of the electric car being subsidized based on the tenure of the plan.

The software used in the electric cars, which was designed and developed by Better Place, provided the information necessary for the drivers.

The company, which positioned itself as a 'premier global provider of electric vehicle services', was able to raise US$ 200 million by convincing a few investors. It tied up with select automakers to manufacture cars which would be compatible with its charging infrastructure and battery swapping facilities. It also received support from the regulatory authorities in Israel, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and some states of the United States and Canada.

However, it remained to be seen whether the proposed ecosystem and business model would encourage widespread adoption of electric vehicles, reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, and contain the levels of environmental pollution. While the company intended to make the world a better place by accelerating the transition to sustainable transportation, was its business model sustainable in the long run?


Ecological sustainability as a business opportunity.

Entrepreneurship, innovative business models, and risks.

Disruptive innovation in the automobile industry.

Stakeholders and their roles in a 'green ecosystem'


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background 3
Better Place's Business Model 5
Global Presence 7
Challenges to the Business Model 9
Future of the Industry and the Business Model 11
Exhibits 13


Better Place, Shai Agassi, Social entrepreneurship, Start-up, Electric cars, Sustainable transportation services, Smart grid, Clean technology, Renewable energy, Lithium ion batteries, Fossil fuels, Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), Hybrid electric vehicles, Plug-in hybrid, Greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental pollution, Subscription plan, Automobiles, Renault-Nissan alliance, Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt, Israel Corp

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