Electric car venture in Australia seeks $700 mln
LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - California-based electric car operator Better Place joined with Macquarie Capital Group on Thursday aiming to raise $1 billion Australian dollars ($676.1 million) to install electric charge points across Australia.
Australian utility AGL Energy
Automakers are in a technology and production race to develop oil alternatives, whether biofuels or electric cars, to address problems of energy security and climate change.
"We're interested in Australia to demonstrate scale," said Shai Agassi, Better Place chief executive and founder.
The Better Place concept is to install electric car charge spots at designated parking lots in residential areas and workplaces. In addition, to allow longer drives, the company would roll out electric filling stations.
The $200 million venture-backed company is still in a very early stage, testing charge spots in Israel with plans to follow in Denmark, and is working with Renault
The company's aim is for pure electric cars to leapfrog mass production gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.
Hybrids achieve range by combining an electric motor with a gasoline engine, while pure electric cars need an electric charging infrastructure. Electric batteries can manage a range of only about 250 kilometres on their own at present.
One problem for Better Place may be to gain traction in an autos industry reporting plummeting sales as consumer spending slides in response to tight credit and looming recession.
In addition, infrastructure projects will require debt finance, at a time credit markets are locked or expensive.
"Debt is a four-letter word now in most parts of the world," said Agassi. "Most of it (the present fund-raising) would be equity. We'll raise a significant chunk of equity now. We'll plan the debt component as the market evolves."
Thursday's proposal would entail developing charge spots in four urban areas, in Victoria, New South Wales, Brisbane and Canberra, and then link those with electric filling stations.
The infrastructure necessary to get the first 1 million electric cars on the road would cost 1-2 billion Australian dollars, Agassi estimated. (Reporting by Gerard Wynn; Editing by David Gregorio)