No Better Place

Here in Denmark, we have had the opportunity to make the world a better place by purchase the services of the organization “Better Place”. Their business concept was to offer electric vehicles with interchangeable batteries and cover our small country with automatic battery replacement stations. If you needed to drive longer than the range of your battery, you would simply pull into a battery replacement station that looked like an automated car wash. A robot would remove the battery from under your car and replace it with a new one in less time than it takes to fill up at a gas station.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

Wrong. Just a few of the objections that immediately came into my mind when I first heard about the concept:

  • If humanity can’t build a vending machine that reliably dispenses a soft drink, what is the chance that the battery changing robot won’t jam, carrying an 800-kilo battery?
  • If I decide to visit family for Christmas (when everybody else is also driving), what are the chances that there will be a charged battery ready for me at the next changing station?
  • I have to purchase a car that matches the battery pack (one model available); a car that is useless in case Better Place goes bankrupt.

They did go bankrupt last week after burning through about half a billion dollars.

The people behind this were clever people with experience from both automobile and energy sector, but they still fell prey to a case of “groupthink.” This happens when a group of people collectively reinforce their own ideas and reject evidence to the contrary.

Do you have someone from outside the organization help you reality check your great ideas before major investments?