EV rock star Agassi gets the ax at Better Place
Shai Agassi lost the CEO job but stays on the board.
The celebrated electric vehicle entrepreneur Shai Agassi told a reporter last year: "We want to save the auto industry." But in the end the founder and CEO of Better Place, an Israeli company that aims to build a global system of cars powered by switchable batteries, couldn't save himself.
The company abruptly dismissed Agassi, 44, one of the industry's most visible EV champions and a bit of an EV rock star. No reason was given, but Better Place's car-charging network, launched this year in Israel and Denmark, is off to a slow start. According to Israeli financial newspapers, Agassi was ousted because Better Place has lost nearly $500 million since it was founded five years ago.
Agassi, who made Time magazine's 100-most-influential list in 2009, set out to operate networks of stations at which drivers could stop to exchange depleted batteries for new ones or charge existing batteries. In 2009, he related a grand vision to Automotive News. He said that by 2012 a new class of moderately priced electric vehicles could cruise on U.S. roads.
"We're the new gas station network," he said.
In partnership with Renault-Nissan, Better Place is selling Renault's Fluence electric cars with switchable batteries in Israel and Denmark. But the startup is running far below expectations, according to The
Jerusalem Post, selling fewer than 1,000 cars so far, including sales to employees.
Agassi remains on the Better Place board. But he has been replaced as the boss by Evan Thornley, who headed the company's Australian operations.