Shai Agassi steps down as CEO of Better Place as company enters new phase
Electric car charging infrastructure provider Better Place has announced that founder and CEO Shai Agassi is stepping down, and will be replaced by Evan Thornley who is currently the CEO of Better Place Australia. Agassi, who launched the company five years ago, is joining the board, and the company is describing the move as a transition from "chapter 1" to "chapter 2" of the company's existence.
Better Place is best known for the quick battery exchange concept, where an electric car driver goes to a battery exchange station and a roboticized system swaps the battery pack for a fully charged one. The company actually offers two services. One is the battery exchange service, in which an electric car can effectively be fully recharged in about 2 minutes. The other is an electric car charging station network, similar to the ChargePoint or Blink networks, where car owners recharge the electric car through the standard J1772 port.
The company was started by Agassi with the idea of "running a country without oil" and making electric cars more affordable and convenient. Stopping the use of oil, and adopting electric transportation, has many potential benefits for climate, environment, and national energy security issues. The company's strategy was to address two chief concerns with electric vehicles: a) the cost of buying an electric car, and b) the recharging time. Better Place's quick battery exchange system also involves leasing, rather than buying, the battery pack, which reduces the purchase price, replacing it with an ongoing battery lease fee.
Better Place does not manufacture electric cars, but instead offers the two services. Instead the company partners with car manufacturers, so far only Renault, who build electric cars compatible with Better Place's battery exchange stations.
“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.”
It is common for an entrepreneur to be able to successfully launch a company, but not have the skill-set or interest to lead the company beyond its first phases. Until this point Better Place has been fund-raising, developing the corporate infrastructure to support battery exchange stations, developing the technology in the stations, and launching service in Israel and Denmark. Agassi will join the Board of 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 has led Better Place Australia for four years. The company's strategy has been to start with "island countries" because isolated countries would be an easier market in which to launch electric car service. Australia is, in Better Place's mind, a large island (ahem) but the service has yet to start there. Prior to joining Better Place he led EV Engineering Ltd., a collaborative venture between global automotive leaders, to develop and create switchable-battery electric car technology.
“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.”