With the lifetime costs of running a vehicle exceeding their purchase price, it makes sense that a company aiming to sell personal transportation would be willing to give away the means to charge you lots of money. Think cell phones, the fancy phone is free; you pay to use it by the minute. While this business model wouldn't make sense for gasoline powered cars - there's too many established outlets already selling gas, insurance, repairs etc - it could work for a whole new system of transportation, which is where Project Better Place comes in.
Ignore, if you will, their incredibly self-righteous name and focus instead on their mission: building the infrastructure necessary to make electric cars a viable means of personal transportation. By copying the way that phone companies construct a network of cell phone towers, Project Better Place hopes to establish a grid of charging stations across within a geographical area that would make continuous electric vehicle use within that area possible. As the company grows, the network will grow with it, eventually expanding across entire states, regions, and eventually, countries.
What you'll be paying for is the electricity to charge the vehicle, presumably suitably marked up to account for things like insurance, maintenance and the vehicle itself. By spreading these costs across monthly or pay-as-you-go bills, this system will hopefully be more accessible to more people than gasoline driven cars sold by the product, rather than the service, are today.
Project better place hopes to implement the first test fleet early next year, most likely in the form of taxis or similar commercial fleets that operate in small geographic area. They're aiming to have 100,000 cars on the road, around the world, by 2010. It looks like Israel could be the first country to adopt such a system, which we discussed here. Project Better Place [Via The Long Tail Blog]
Photo credit: frankh