Shai Aggasi Out As Better Place CEO. Time To Call Time Of Death?

5 years ago by Jay Cole 14

Shai Agassi, Out As CEO Of Better Place

On Tuesday, Better Place’s Board of Directors elected to remove Shai Aggasi as CEO of the company.  But can anything help at this point?

Without getting into the details (and failures) of the company formerly known as “Project Better Place,” the premise just never made sense to us.

  • Devise a complicated battery swap system
  • Convince a single OEM (Renault) to manufacturer to produce a single model electric vehicle to conform to your proprietary swap stations
  • Attempt to build an infrastructure ahead of sales to support that vehicle
  • Over charge (in our opinion) for the car, and the battery (if the customer chooses to buy it outright)
  • Over charge (via a monthly fee) for the convenience of swapping a depleted battery for a fully charged one

Project Better Place Battery Swapping Station In Isreal

Over the summer, as projections were not translating into sales at the company, chinks in the armor began to show, as Better Place cut their monthly fees (or made them more accessible depending on your prospective) in an attempt to regain influence in the market.

Now, Shai Agassi, who famously said that Israel by itself would have 100,000 EVs (mostly his) on the road by 2010, has left, who will be the driving force, and more importantly the “Chief Fundraiser” at the company now he  is gone.  According to Better Place, it will be Evan Thornley, who gets a promotion from his previous roll of CEO of Better Place Australia.

According to The Times Of Israel, Better Place has lost NIS 1.7 billion ($437 million USD) since its founding.  And NIS 500 million ($128 million) so far this year.  An impressive feat having only sold a few hundred cars and building less than two dozen battery swap stations.

Reports from Israel says that Aggasi was ousted from his role as CEO, as the company has lost faith in its founder.  Mr. Agassi will retain his seat on the board.

Better Place issued the following statement:

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.

Source: The Times Of Isreal 

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14 responses to "Shai Aggasi Out As Better Place CEO. Time To Call Time Of Death?"

  1. Chris says:

    Yes, BetterPlace is DOA. Not that swapable batteries isn’t a good idea – it’s just not very practical. Tesla designed Model S with a swapable pack, but my prediction is that it will never be utilized other than for them to service the battery. There are two things that will kill this idea:
    1. Ownership of the battery. I don’t want to baby my battery, charging it to 80%, keeping it from being exposed to too much heat, avoiding fast charging – only to swap it out for someone else’s “old and busted” battery. I don’t mind it (too much) when I exchange a nice new clean propane tank for my grille with an old rusty one because they are functionally the same, and inexpensive. A Li battery is not.
    2. Battery capacity. The first generation of EV’s was around 70 miles of range. The next generation (BMW i3) will be around 90. For a price, Tesla can deliver 130 to 260 miles. In a few years the affordable EV’s will be in the 120+ range – this will certainly happen before any company can build a infrastructure of battery swap stations. The need for swapping batteries disintegrates as the range of the vehicles increases.
    I like Shai Aggasi, and I love his vision – but this one just didn’t pan out.

    1. Open-Mind says:

      There are a few more reasons that BP does not make sense and (IMHO) was always destined to fail.

      Fact Based:

      3) Each battery swap facility costs about $500K. As a result, there will never be enough of them.

      4) After buying a compatible (and battery free) car, the required battery subscription fee is about $5,000/year. This is far more expensive than buying/leasing a Volt or Leaf.

      5) If BP fails in the market place, then you own an electric car with no battery and no future.

      Opinion Based:

      6) Will battery swapping work reliably in a Chicago winter when the bottom of my vehicle is a solid block of ice and grime? I doubt it. Their swap demo videos only show ideal clean conditions.

      7) Will all manufacturers ever agree on a single battery standard that requires compromising their future designs? I doubt it. They can’t even agree on charging plugs..

      8 ) Will the same battery swap system work for a Smart-Car and a Chevy Silverado? I doubt it. Certainly not without yet more design compromise.

      9) Will faster battery charging soon make battery swapping unnecessary? Probably. The Tesla Super-Charger is already close.

      1. Open-Mind says:

        Oops … this blog app converted my #8 point into a smiley. 😉

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Its because we are so professional, (=

          /fixed

  2. Stuart22 says:

    Ironic how Renault got involved with BP instead of Nissan — battery swapping would have averted the groundswell of anger with their LEAF customers over the battery issues currently taking place.

    1. Open-Mind says:

      I think the Leaf owners might be more upset if their cars required a $5,000/year battery subscription service that is only offered by one company that will probably soon be bankrupt. I’m surprised it took them so long to realize that Shai Aggasi might be a con-artist. Of course, I would have said the same of Bernie Madoff who successfully ran his con for a decade.

  3. Schmeltz says:

    Back when Shai was starting this revolutionary idea, I was one that thought he really had something that would work and take off. And over the last few years, the vision was unfolding, but not really growing from the few places that originally signed on, (i.e., Isreal and Denmark). Also, the only car company he could get behind him was Renault/Nissan. Not sure where this all went wrong, but I’m sad it didn’t work out. Hate to call it dead while it still has a pulse, but it’s never good when the founder gets kicked out.

    Once again, the Volt looks like the best idea going for EV’s IMHO.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      I was just thinking a little more about this, and I remembered a few years ago Jay was highly doubtful of the whole Better Place scheme back in the very beginning. We had some good discussions about this back on GM-Volt.com, and now you look like a prophet on this Jay. Good call my friend. I thought back then that this company had wings to fly, but apparently it didn’t have enough.

      I wonder what happens now to the people who signed on, and to the switch stations, the EV’s themselves, the charging posts, etc.?

      1. Jay Cole says:

        Well, they are not dead yet…but it sure looks like they are head that way. (My pessimism knows no bounds, lol)

        The Israeli government is pretty tied to the project, so I would say if it eventually fails, they would step in on the short term before flipping it to private equity to manage.

        Disregarding the monster amount of management at BP, the overhead, and bills to pay,..after a bankruptcy rinse, the assets would have some value/income potential, at least for a little while…provided they actually own them/could retain them. Certainly nothing like the $1 billion dollars they have raised, but maybe a few million. Maybe.

        Right now the company has 1,500 odd L2 stations and a couple dozen swap stations. The swap station would be an albatross to staff/manage immediately, but changing the L2s to ‘public pay as you go’ might be worthwhile while taking in the monthly fees (still hard to tell without knowing the deals BP has in place with the location owners and the L2 EVSE OEM).

        Funny, even looking at it as if they were bankrupt today, and if assets were up for sale, I’m still not convinced the company is even worth taking over. Even if they offered it to me for a $1, I’m not sure I’d take the risk. (jmho)

  4. Nelson says:

    This is what happens when you try something that’s failed before in history without researching the cause of the past failure.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

  5. Roy_H says:

    The BP board seems very determined to make a go of it, and Shai Aggasi is still a board member, so I wouldn’t count them out yet. There is no way this would work here in N.A. with our government subsidized gas (I believe ~ $0.70/g) but I think things are much different in Europe where there are heavy taxes on gas. I know Denmark government pays 50% of BP’s fees as an incentive to help electrification of the automobile. Not sure what the arrangement in Israel is, but one poster from there seems very happy with BP and claims he saves money over his previous vehicle.

    So yes, from out perspective it doesn’t look viable, but maybe we just don’t have the right perspective.

  6. Christian says:

    Hey Guys,
    I defended the BP model a lot in the past years, and even today (I am from germany) there is no technology to fulfill the usecase Shai laid out – which is convenient as a gas car.

    In Germany we drive long distance with 100mph+ and even the model-S 85kwh

  7. Christian says:

    Hey Guys,
    I defended the BP model a lot in the past years, everybody argues like BP is only battery swapping – which it’s not.

    BP is a gurantee to drive where you want – It’s the only real soliton to deploy and manage EV infrastucture (hardware AND Software).

    Image, I charge my Roadster/ModelS_85 fully at home, that’s ideally 300km/500km range – I then have a customer training onsite – so I drive the normal ~ 200km to the customer (Autobahn ~100mph). Even if I manage the full distance (image in winter -8C°) I must beg the customer to let me charge so I am able to drive home …. without a company like BP to deploy a full managed charge infrastructure I can’t do that with a pure EV.
    If the customer is a bit off bigger cities (I have one of those) then I must use battery swapping, cause at evening I wanna go home and I do not have 30min. for fast charging whatsoever … so I drive on the autobahn, take first swap station and continue my ride home – voila 400km in a day with an EV – chargetime <15minutes (cause of swapping)

    So far BP is the only company to offer a solution for a full infrastructure,
    so you can tell me what you want – they still have something unique in their hands and as long as they use that correctly they will be fine.