Rough starts and local criticism are nothing new in the green car start-up world, and it looks like Better Place is going through another all-too-familiar trope: CEO shake-up.

Better Place's CEO, Shai Agassi, has been "removed" by the company's board of directors in a surprise act. The previous CEO of Better Place Australia, Evan Thornley, has taken over for Agassi. Agassi will remain on the board.

Since starting Better Place, Agassi has been a strong proponent of plug-in vehicles (see examples here, here and here). He hasn't always been right about his predictions, but he's certainly been out there promoting the cause. Trouble is, Better Place hasn't had the success some expected – even though it has deployed plug-in vehicle charging stations and battery swap stations in multiple countries – and so now the official word is that Better Place owes "Shai our gratitude for turning his powerful vision into a reality," but it's time to move on. The Times Of Israel says Shai's reduction of rank is tied to "the company's financial problems, which are rooted in difficulties in selling cars and setting up the necessary infrastructure to support them." The Times says Better Place has lost around $437 million U.S. since it got started five years ago, $128 million of that since in 2012 alone.

Thornley has been CEO of Better Place Australia for four years, and previously worked to develop "EV Engineering Ltd., a collaborative venture between global automotive leaders, to develop and create switchable-battery electric car technology."
Show full PR text
Better Place Australia CEO Evan Thornley Named Global Chief Executive Officer
Better Place Founder & CEO Shai Agassi Steps into Board Role


TEL AVIV – Better Place today announced the promotion of Evan Thornley, Chief Executive Officer of Better Place Australia, to CEO of the global company. Better Place Founder Shai Agassi will continue as a Board member and shareholder in the company he founded.
Over the past five years, Agassi has pioneered an innovative technology solution aimed at making electric cars more affordable and more convenient than gasoline cars. What started as an idea of "running a country without oil" in a white paper quickly evolved from vision to reality in the company's first two markets, Israel and Denmark. Today the deployment of the charging and switching networks for electric cars in Israel and Denmark, coupled with a rapidly growing global customer base, have made Agassi's vision a reality.

"Under Shai's leadership, we've successfully achieved our goals in the first chapter of Better Place, and we owe Shai our gratitude for turning his powerful vision into a reality," said Idan Ofer, Chairman of the Better Place Board of Directors. "It is almost five years to the day since Shai launched Better Place and a natural point in the company's evolution to realign for its second chapter and for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Our board has long prepared to ensure that Better Place has a strong bench of talented executives in place to support the CEO and a clear succession plan to ensure a smooth leadership transition and we are fortunate to have such a strong leadership team within Better Place."

"In his four years as CEO of Better Place in Australia, Evan has built an impressive track record, particularly around establishing a strong set of industry partners there. Evan brings the right combination of entrepreneurship and coalition and team building to take Better Place to the next level," Ofer continued.

Thornley will assume the global CEO role, effective immediately. Since joining Better Place in 2009, Thornley's vision for the future of sustainable transportation in Australia helped to shape the 2020 roadmap embraced by the government and industry. He was instrumental in the creation of EV Engineering Ltd., a collaborative venture between global automotive leaders, to develop and create switchable-battery electric car technology. An entrepreneur at heart, Thornley founded one of the first Australian technology companies to be listed on the NASDAQ.

"Four years ago, Shai asked me to join the Better Place mission and bring it to Australia. It has been my pleasure to lead that effort along with my colleague CEOs in Israel, Denmark and now the Netherlands. Today, it is an honour for me to step up and lead this fantastic global team on a day-to-day basis," said Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place. "We have the only fully integrated charge network platform in the world that's live and operating and serving satisfied customers. We start the second chapter with a tremendous strength of global investors and management team. Our relentless focus now is to grow and satisfy a global customer base and build powerful industry partnerships."

"Five years ago, I followed my passion to make the world a better place and founded a company to materialize that vision. Very few people are blessed to see such a grand vision become a proven reality within a relatively short time frame," said Agassi. "I am proud of the Better Place people and the team that I am leaving behind who will take this company to the next chapter."

About Better Place
Better Place is the leading global provider of electric car networks that enables the mass market adoption of electric cars through an innovative battery switch model that makes driving electric cars more affordable, convenient and sustainable than today's petrol-based cars. Better Place owns and operates a network of battery switch stations and public/personal charge spots, along with the supply of batteries that power the cars, to provide drivers with instant range extension and the convenience to drive, switch and go across an entire region. Where possible, Better Place uses renewable sources of energy to deliver fully zero emissions driving. The World Economic Forum has named Better Place a "Global Growth Company Industry Shaper" for its innovative approach in advancing the global switch to electric cars. Check out www.betterplace.com

Forward-Looking Statements
In this press release and in related comments by our management, our use of the words "expect," "possible," "believe," "continue," "may," "will," "positioned", "promised" or similar expressions is intended to identify forward-looking statements that represent our current judgment about possible future events. We believe these judgments are reasonable, but these statements are not guarantees of any events or financial results, and our actual results may differ materially due to a variety of important factors. Among other items, such factors might include: our ability to complete testing and certification as expected; our ability to expand commercial operations and increase revenue; our ability to offer nationwide coverage in Israel and Denmark in the expected time frame; our ability to move forward with Battery Switch Station deployment in other countries; and our ability to attract new customers. Better Place disclaims any obligation to update information contained in these forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's a shame because he meant well but it should have become obvious to him early on that the premise was too restrictive to survive.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Even though the cars themselves are nicely engineered... the infrastructure can kill an idea just as quickly. Battery swapping and Hydrogen are very similar in this respect. Both shift the limitations from the vehicle to the infrastructure. Most potential buyers are happy about this... because they assume the infrastructure, someone elses problem... will be completely available at time of purchase.
        JakeY
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Luckily hydrogen has lots and lots of government funding and the stations are not managed by one entity. Plus it's not trying to force a contract model that bundles the car with the infrastructure. I don't think battery swapping as an idea is the problem. It's the Better Place Model. The "cell phone" contract model is unlikely to appeal people and car companies around the world. First of all, the reputation of cell phone carriers is they like to gouge people. Better Place limits you for miles regardless of if you paid for the electricity yourself. Second of all, is cell phone carriers maintain too much control over the design and sale of the phones (with rare exceptions), which is not comforting to most automakers (which is why Better Place has only essentially only one automaker, Renault/Nissan, as a partner). I think the model that would work for battery swapping is something similar to car sharing or rentals. It allows you to still own your battery and car and only swap it out when necessary (and get your battery back afterwards) But overall, I think battery swapping will probably prove to be unnecessary as quick charging improves. The limit in practical use today (Tesla superchargers) is 90kW, which gives you about 150 miles of range per 30 minutes. J1772-DC will push that to 240kW, 2.67x the speed. That will give you about 150 miles of range per 11 minutes. In the recent 530 mile trip with the Model S, Brad used 2:15 hours to charge the car. The faster charging speed will bump that down to 50 minutes. That's fast enough to make it so there's essentially no difference with a gasoline car in a road trip (averaging about 16-17 minutes per stop for 3 stops on the 530 mile trip). Essentially, you can charge while having lunch and it's already enough. http://www.plugincars.com/inside-scoop-tesla-super-smart-supercharger-network-124676.html
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        50% of the market is still MILLIONS of cars and households that allow for a market to be born. The problem with hydrogen is actually worse than Better Place. BP cars can at least charge at 120V and 240V outlets if no swap stations are available. A single Hydrogen car would be Dead in the Water after only a few days, unless an H2 station exists close to the home of the FCV owner. This is a Barrier to the very start of the market.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        It is a good job then that every roadside has power lines and plugs built in, or it sure would cost a fair bit to wire them up for the 50% of cars which don't have a garage. I agree that Better Place is nonsense, but reject the dodgy analogy.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Yeah. EVs need to 'evolve' into battery swapping. They first have to become wide-spread accepted and popular cars. Only AFTER EVs are popular can we start looking into have an industry consortium get together and come up with battery-swapping STANDARD. Standard is the important word.
      oktrader
      • 2 Years Ago
      A quick story (and I do have a point)... On the occasions when we have the whole family in the house, we like to watch a few TED lectures on Netflix every night. (You can watch three lectures in about 45 minutes or less, and they make great dinnertime argument material and car conversation.) My daughters are especially fans: one is a PhD candidate in epidemiology and the other is on her way to becoming an IP attorney. My son is a high-functioning autistic teen and very like me; when he gets interested in something he digs in and tears it apart. Anyhow, when we were watching the 2009 TED collection (which includes the handsome young Shai) over the last holiday season, there was nobody -- NOBODY -- in the family room who didn't start picking on Agassi right from the start. If the word "con" offfends the kind moderators here, then they would not want to hear what my offspring had to say about the guy. My son, who loves to stun us with his newfound vocabulary, pronounced Agassi "oleaginous". The doctoral candidate has an occasional streak like the Debra character on Showtime's Dexter. She was especially entertaining. Investors would have saved a ton if they'd listened to my kids.
      carney373
      • 2 Years Ago
      For too many people, it all comes down to up front price. All the talk of externalities, long term indirect cost they are sure to feel some other way, confuses and bores people unable to process abstract information. Since cap and trade (Reagan's preferred, market-based strategy for dealing with sulfur dioxide emissions over telling each power plant how much to emit) is now anathema and socialism, what to do to? Since simply "putting a price on carbon", a new tax on carbon, is a NEW TAX, what to do? Tie it in with tax reform. Shift the burden of the tax code from income and investments (working, and saving money) - things we want to encourage, over to things we want to discourage (relative to their prevalence today), such as consumption (especially consumption on credit), and carbon (especially oil since oil not only emits GHG but also crashes our economy and funds terrorism). You can selll this to conservatives and free marketers as a way to, by spreading around the burden of taxation, ensure that everyone has a stake in the system, skin in the game, rather than many voting for more "free" goodies.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about discussing the subject of the thread, Better Place, instead of once more launching into why all the car companies in the world and the DOE are wrong on hydrogen?
      • 2 Years Ago
      that, because the VCs are BLIND, never READ the related articles on the web and not even the EMAIL sent them, that would have helped them to SAVE very much money! in this July 23, 2007 article you can read the TRUE STORY of the replaceable-battery-cars venture ... www.gaetanomarano.it/articles/033cellphoneCAR.html and, in the same article, is explained also WHY, this $490M project, was already DOOMED from start, five years ago! read also my comment on Technology Review posted in 2007 ... www.technologyreview.com/news/408289/plug-in-hybrids-get-green-grades/#comments very sad to see that, while I can't find $1M to start a new.space company, this guy raised $490,000,000 to develop ... NOTHING! ent here
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Incidentally that is the difference between that and hydrogen storage. Hydrogen is simply hydrogen, and would fuel all FCEVs. Not so for battery swapping.
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      The whole concept of Better Place was flawed from it's inception. The idea of Battery swapping first appeared in a 1950's editions of sci-fi comics and magazines, like Popular Mechanics etc. But to anyone who seriously examined such a proposal, the logistics and impracticalities become quickly obvious ! Battery swapping relies on four factors; 1) All vehicles have standardized batteries, contained within the same location. 2) The battery pod must be sufficiently robust to withstand crash testing, yet easily detached. 3) Batteries must always remain of the same type and power storage capacity. 4) Rapid adoption of standardized EV's to justify the high cost of Battery swap station infrastructure and stock. Oddly enough, the only countries that could make this work, would be totalitarian nations, with a communist-style, centrally planned economic system. Since North Korea proved disinterested, that left only Israel, where a unique set of circumstances, allows the Israeli Electricity provider a monopoly. The idea of Battery Swapping attracts those who lack sufficient knowledge to understand the logistical impracticalities. But amazingly, Shai Aggassi attracted an army of earnest young followers (mostly from the IT industry) and created a sort of cult following. What's even more astonishing, is the way Shai Aggassi has managed to persuade hundreds of individuals and reputable organizations to hand over very large sums of money, (billions) as investments in this mad scheme ! Better Place was always fanciful with the truth, but lately, it's been attempting to install ordinary charging posts in places like Denmark, just to keep the hype going. (With very dubious results). Enter Even Thornley. Australian dot com millionaire, and ex-politician. Even Thornley served a short term as a cabinet minister, in the former left-wing, Labour government of the State of Victoria, Australia. After leaving office, Mr Thornley has brokered some token deals for Better Place, (accompanied with a great deal of hype) due to his contacts with the current minority, Australian Federal Labour government. Mr Thornley's Australian influence, (along with Better Place investors money) will disappear with the next election. The incoming Conservatives have promised an inquiry into Labour's relationships and 'arrangements'. Better Place is high on the list ! It's very hard to tell whether Better Place was always just a scam, or like many cults, the followers came tobelieve their own b/s ! As I have been saying for years, Better Place will end in tears !
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Battery swapping can work . . . just not yet. There needs to be a large EV market with several automakers making tens of thousands of cars. At that point, they might want to get together to create a standard for battery swapping. By then we will know much more about what works well and what doesn't. But that day is probably 15 to 25 years away. First EVs need to get off the ground as a real business.
          Jorge
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          @Spec By the time" that day comes", batteries will be so powerful and will recharge in such a short time that the "swap thing" will be even more irrelevant than it is today. That is, if batteries are the solution.....
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Don't be so confident on the future progress of batteries. Just because we have have had amazing advances in digital electronics over the last 40 years, people just assume that we can do the same things in other areas. But that just isn't true. Ignoring all the fancy electronics (GPS, anti-lock breaks, air-bags, ECS, etc.) Is a 1967 Mustang all that different from the current mustang? Lithium-Ion batteries have progressed much over the last 10 years but there are limits. There are no lighter useful elements than lithium on periodic table. A Lithium-air battery would be big but no one knows if that will ever work as a rechargeable battery. The current lithium batteries will continue to improve but I suspect the improvements will largely be incremental . . . no exponential improvements. Bob Lutz recently said "[Eventually] you'll have a $28,000 medium-sized car with a battery pack and an electric motor in it and every morning when you wake up you'll have 400 miles in the tank. what's wrong with that?". I believe that is pipedream.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          @ "Battery swapping can work . . . just not yet." Um, ...tell me you're just being funny ? ! The whole idea of 'battery swapping' is barmy ! In 15-25 years, EV's will have developed sufficiently as to make 'battery swapping' long obsolete ! The EV ESD of the future may not even be a battery as we know it. Battery swapping was a response to the limitations of lead acid batteries. At one time automobile had a dog and crank handle, just in case the car starter/battery didn't work ! Not a big demand for crank handles these days ! It's hard enough to sell EV's as it is, without this sort of daft idea providing a distraction !
        Jorge
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        A few weeks ago I posted my opinion (or the info I had from insiders) about Monsieur Agassi (or Aggassi) not as eloquently as you and used only a dozen of very clear and somewhat "cold"words. Our friends at ABG decided to delete my post because, I think, I used the word "con". I wished I was able to articulate as well as you and I thank for your post. Just hope they don't delete it.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jorge
          @ Jorge thank you for those kind words.
      oktrader
      • 2 Years Ago
      Exactly.
      ericmarseille
      • 2 Years Ago
      Once again typical BP incapacity to communicate on the right issues : I think their switch stations can adapt to many types of batteries ; of course nobody knows clearly ; that said, if the ZOE proves BP compatible, we'll have the answer already for it has a completely different shaped battery from the Fluence ZE.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sure the battery swapping mechanism could deal with many types of battery. The problem is that all the different types would need storing and keeping charged up ready to be swapped in. You don't need to have many different types for the logistics and carrying costs to become impossible.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I once met a team of representatives from BetterPlace and had several meetings with them. I grilled them quite thoroughly on the viability of their battery swap tech and it quickly turns out that their two major weaknesses are that their design dictates a significant part of vehicle design (which car manufacturers wont welcome) and that rapid charging tech is so imminent that it will wipeout the very idea of battery swapping for good. I had the impression that they were obviously rushing to establish standardization through a technology with a very short expiration date. If countries with stop fighting over the international standardization of rapid charging tech (which there are many and also which Tesla jumped the gun), range anxiety is a non issue. As Tesla demonstrated brilliantly, such charging stations can be either mobile or installed on a modular platform unlike a gas station which isn't. IMO Better Place's business model doesn't stand a chance against such changes.
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        And all cars in the world using this system would have to have permanent subscription at just one company in all the world. One company would have a monopoly. That's just not going to happen. Plus more problems. Better Place could try to save a little part of the company by expanding to quick charge service as well, maybe produce and sell the hardware.
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