EV troubles mount: Better Place founder out as CEO; U.S. battery plants need work

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Quick take: Technology analysts often talk about the typical hype cycle, which starts with overinflated expectations which inevitably bring on disillusionment, before the technology rebounds and finds its true level. The electric vehicle (EV) sector is clearly in the trough of disillusionment, judging by announcements such as the recent EV cutbacks by Toyota and the suspension of Chevy Volt production. – Jesse Berst

 

Further evidence of the downturn in the EV space comes in a story in the Wall Street Journal. Charismatic founder Shai Agassi has stepped down as CEO of Better Place LLC, a startup dedicated to EV charging and battery swapping stations.

 

 Although analysts told the Journal it's not unusual to bring in a manager to handle growth, this change came about because of lack of growth. In a surprise announcement, the company says it is replacing Agassi so the company can "realign for its second chapter." A Better Place press release (which you can read in full on page 2) says Agassi will continue as a board member and shareholder. Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia, was appointed CEO of the global company.

 

 Israeli-born Agassi has raised $750 million from venture investors. The company reports it is burning through that cash much faster than it can replace it with revenue. Since its founding in 2007, the company has lost just under a half billion dollars.

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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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