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

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

Business Model Innovation by Better Place: A Green Ecosystem for the Mass Adoption of Electric Cars
Case Code: BSTR378
Case Length: 22 Pages
Period: 2007-2009
Pub Date: 2010
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.500
Organization: Better Place
Industry: Auto and Ancillaries
Countries: Global
Themes: Business Model Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship, Electric Cars
Business Model Innovation by Better Place: A Green Ecosystem for the Mass Adoption of Electric Cars
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


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'



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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