Electric-car use to reach tipping point in 2015

Better Place LLC, a U.S. startup developing charging stations for electric vehicles, predicts the “tipping point” for electric car use will come as soon as 2015, Chairman Idan Ofer said today.

“The fact is that because we are making it convenient for customers and the moment people realize there is no disadvantage to owning an electric car” they will buy the models, Ofer said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Davos, Switzerland.

Better Place, based in Palo Alto, California, started putting its first cars on the road in Israel this week and expects to go public in the next two years, Chief Executive Officer Shai Agassi said on Jan. 24.

The company has raised $750 million since it was founded four years ago and is in partnership with Renault SA (RNO) to install electric-car charging systems in Israel (ILCO), Denmark and Australia. Cars are expected to start using the company network in Denmark within weeks and in Australia later this year.

Ofer’s family owns Israel Corp., which has a stake of about 30 percent in Better Place. Ofer said the company’s largest potential market is China, where Better Place opened a visitors’ center in the southern city of Guangzhou last month.

China Growth

“That is no question that China will go electric,” Ofer said. “By 2015, their government policy is to have 1 million cars on the road. China is definitely the target. In fact, the main reason I invested in this company is because I was thinking China.”

Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles have the potential to make up 9 percent of auto sales in 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That could rise to 22 percent of sales by 2030, or 4 million vehicles.

At the same time, their high price and low performance compared with conventional vehicles may be a hurdle to growth, U.K. market-research company Technavio said in an August 2011 report.

“The tipping point?” said Ofer. “I would say it’s 2015, 2016.”