Better Place to import US electric cars

Regulatory and tax hurdles still remain.

Better Place plans to import US electric cars for field tests in Israel. An initial ten cars will be imported to test the recharging infrastructure and navigation technology, train technical teams, and to demonstrate the potential of the electric car fleet to potential customers.

Better Place, headed by Shai Agassi, confirmed the report, saying, "The cars slated for tests in Israel are being assembled in the US and will arrive in Israel soon."

It is not yet clear which platform will be the basis for the electric car. However, industry sources believe that it will be a family car made by either Chrysler or Chevrolet, both of which sell cars in Israel. This will facilitate standards procedures. Alternatively, European cars, possibly made by Renault SA (Euronext: RNO) will be flown to the US where they will be fitted with electric motors and batteries.

The selection of the US was apparently driven by A123 Systems Inc., a US manufacturer of lithium batteries, in which Ofer Holdings Group recently acquired a stake. Ofer Holdings' subsidiary Israel Corp. (TASE: ILCO) is a major investor in Better Place.

Vehicle industry sources said that Better Place will have to obtain a lot of extraordinary import permits from the Ministry of Transport in order to bring the electric cars to Israel. This is partly because of the need to circumvent current import regulations and standards, such as the ban on imports in commercial quantities for of vehicles which there are no authorized garages or spare parts of the carmakers.

The import duty on electric cars is also unclear.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 3, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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