Everything you ever wanted to know about driving a Better Place car

Everything you ever wanted to know about Better Place but weren’t ashamed to ask at the traffic lights.

This is a collection of questions my fellow Better Place owners and I have all fielded whilst out driving or parking our cars.

I’ve answered many of these as nearby drivers give frantic hand signals asking you to wind down your windows (are you old enough to remember car windows that had a winder?)

So here’s the list with my answers.

  1. “What if you want to go to Eilat?” – Get in the car, drive. You’ll stop 3 or 4 times. Your bladder will thank you and you’re less likely to die crossing the Arava by ploughing head on into a truck while you doze off behind the wheel.
  2. “How much does it cost to charge at home?” – Nothing
  3. “How much does it cost to change a battery?” – Nothing
  4. “How’s the acceleration? ” (with a face like – pretty bad, huh?) – Astonishing. Seriously astonishing. Watch (and then I left the Honda S2000 sports car driver far behind at the lights).
  5. “Did you get stuck on the road once? ” (or – “how many times did you get stuck…”) – I’ve run out of fuel twice, but only in petrol cars: I’ve yet to run out of battery.
  6. “Do you need to stay by the car when it charges? ” – Do you stay with your dishwasher while it washes?
  7. “Where do you charge the car?” – At home. They’re usually a little shocked.
  8. “Is it hybrid?” / “I know, this is the hybrid one! ” – No.
  9. “Do you have a spare battery?” – No.
  10. “How much fuel does it take per km? “. You probably won’t understand but I’ll tell you: 16.5 kWh per 100 km. That’s about the same energy as leaving your domestic water heater (“dude”) on for 5.5 hrs to travel 100 km.

    Keys on the table When Better Place owners meet up
    A collection of Better Place customer’s keys on a table – Photo: Brian of London
  11. “Where is the exhaust pipe? ” – It doesn’t have one, which also means it’ll never fall off or have a hole.
  12. A mechanic: “Where do you change engine oil? ” – There is no oil. No petrol, no gasoline, no diesel and no engine oil. You have to fill up the little tank with soapy water for the windscreen though.
  13. “Put in neutral, I want to hear the engine” – Stick your fingers in your ears. That’s what it sounds like.
  14. “What happens when you come to a change station at midnight when nobody’s there? ” – The robots work. They always work, the robots are never round the back drinking coffee and having a smoke. You don’t have to hoot to get them to help you. In fact none of the stations have people in regularly these days.
  15. “Do they give the changed battery to someone else or does he get a new one? ” – The stations hold between 4 and 8 batteries and (once they’re out of the car) they can be recharged very quickly in around 40 minutes. Depleted batteries are charged up and ready for the next driver.
  16. “Do you need to get to 0% in order to change the battery? ” – no, but a few of us have cut it close. Once you get to 0% you do have a few more KMs left before shut down.
  17. “What do you do when the battery changes? It must be heavy! Anyone helps you? Does it make you dirty? “- See answer about robots: when answered they look at you like you’re describing alien abduction.
  18. “Is there A/C in the car? ” – This is Israel in 2013, do you think I’m a lunatic?
  19. (While being billed for the 30K service) – “How much oil did they put in the car? ” – None. It’s great when the employees at the place servicing your car know less than you: inspires confidence right?
  20. Insurance agent: “What is the engine volume? ” – “Zero. ” – “I can’t find it in the system.” – Yup. All mention of litres has disappeared from this car.

    Better Place cars sold and awaiting collection or delivery by their new owners - Photo: Brian of London
    Better Place cars sold and awaiting collection or delivery by their new owners – Photo: Brian of London
  21. “At what speed does it go steep roads? ” – Pretty much any reasonable speed you like, pick one you and the police are comfortable with.
  22. “Do you have a backup fuel tank? ” – No. The battery weighs around 250 kg. It’s not like your laptop’s battery.
  23. (At the traffic lights) “Is it like… working now?” – Yes.
  24. “What do you do after 100 KMs? ” – Drive some more, stop and switch the battery, or plug it in at home or in a public charge spot.
  25. “The trouble with EV’s is that the electricity will cost you 3000 NIS per month” – Nothing wasn’t quite the right answer for 2 and 3 above. Better Place customers don’t pay directly for electricity. They pay a subscription that includes all their electricity, battery switches and overall service. I’m paying ₪740 per month to drive 20,000km per year. Other deals (including fixed price, unlimited mileage) are available.
  26. “Is it true that at traffic lights you don’t have A/C? ” – No, it’s Israel, that would be insane.
  27. “When the battery runs out after 50,000 km, then you go to switch it? ” – No, and if this is about the complete life of the battery, I’m not bothered because the battery isn’t mine. Better Place will remove worn out batteries from the system when they no longer deliver 80% of their design capability.
  28. When complaining of being ICEd which is what electric car drivers call it when an infernal combustion engine car blocks a charging spot in public – “Will you just park outside and let the sun charge you? ” – No, in order for solar power to realistically power an electric car, you need 20 m² of panels. And they’re heavy. You can’t put them on a car. So no practical electric car can run anything more than its radio from solar panels.
  29. (Guard at Eilat’s mall) – “I can’t let you go into the underground parking lot” (confused with natural gas vehicles) – Natural gas powered cars can’t park underground in Israel because they resemble bombs. Electric cars are probably safer than petrol cars (don’t believe the fire stories) but we don’t have data from long enough to really know. Batteries (even if they burn) don’t burn anything like as vigorously as petrol.
  30. “I work 20 KMs from home, don’t want to change the battery every two days” – No, you’ll charge at home, starting every day with a full “tank” and if that’s your only journey, you’ll never switch!
  31. And finally, the ultimate question: “How is it? ” – For which you’ll just have to read my many blog posts at Israellycool or my first year review in Green Car Reports: One Year in a Better Place.

If you have any questions, and I really won’t judge, please leave them below and feel free to tag me, Brian John Thomas, in the comment.

It’s been one year and 20,000 km since I changed to a new way of driving and broke my oil addiction habit. I haven’t run out of energy yet.


*A big thanks to the other owners who helped compile this list.

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.