By on January 30, 2013

Better Place Australia’s future is in serious jeopardy after its CEO resigned, amid plans to restrict new investment to Israel and Denmark, Better Place’s main markets.

Evan Thornley, Better Place’s CEO (and a native of Australia), stepped down just three months into the job. A note released to his staff, obtained by The Australian, said:

“…in recent times, strong and honestly held differences have emerged at the most senior levels of the company about how we best take the company forward…I do not wish to be a barrier to that unity and so will step down and let the company transition to new leadership…”

Prior to the New Year, around a quarter of Better Place Australia’s staff was let ago, along with half of the company’s Israeli staff. Thornley’s resignation apparently comes over differences in strategy; with battery swap stations on the ground in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, Thornley’s hometown of Melbourne was next on the list. But with Better Place’s funding situation on shaky ground, the board decided to shift direction and focus on markets like Israel and Denmark, with significant infrastructure and cars that are compatible with BP’s network of battery swap stations.

Thornley relaced founder Shai Agassi as CEO of Better Place, after a dispute with chairman Idan Ofer led to Agassi’s ouster. Now, investors and observers in Israeli are growing frustrated with the company’s substantial cash burn and management changes. Aside from Better Place’s inherently risky nature as a start-up business, the industry seems to be shifting away from their prior EV enthusiasm, with hydrogen fuel-cells suddenly en vogue yet again.

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7 Comments on “Better Place CEO Resigns, Division’s Future Looks Bleak...”

  • avatar

    I highly recommend this article for anyone interested in understanding more about Better Place and Shai Agassi:

  • avatar

    Better Place is too late with their idea. They should have existed many years ago prior to standardization of the J1772 EV connector.

    Besides, I’d be a lot less willing to have my EV battery swapped out than to just charge it at home. Any long-distance hopes for EVs depend upon a) the Tesla approach, and/or b) Better Place facilities that are even more plentiful than gas stations. They also depend on every EV mfr embracing the Better Place infrastructure for battery swaps.

    Too many uphill battles for Better Place; the investors will lose everything.

  • avatar

    hydrogen fuel cells? Is that coming from the “we are committed to fossil fuels and are trying to keep anything else indefinitely in the future (and pretend we don’t know that viable hydrogen production is exclusively fossil fuel based) oil companies or “we are committed to existing car designs in much the same way US car companies from 1970-1990 were committed to land yachts” car companies?

    inefficient to generate
    escapes before use
    most expensive fuel to use once it even gets to you

    No wonder W. loved it.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “Thornley’s resignation apparently comes over differences in strategy; with battery swap stations on the ground in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, Thornley’s hometown of Melbourne was next on the list.”

    Better Place haven’t rolled out anything in Canberra or any other city. They said in December 2012 they were still 12 months away from opening their first there. This stands to reason because there presently aren’t actually any cars available which could use the swapping stations given that the Fluence ZE has been mothballed for the Aus market.

    As I always maintained Better Place was never anything more than a ponzi/pyramid scheme aimed at lining Agassi’s pockets.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. That was what I said after hearing an interview with him and seeing his business plan.

      The “Better Place” at the end of all this will be his bank account.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    So far as I am aware in Australia they have installed 12 charging sites in a few towns in the South East, no battery-swap stations, and sold no battery-swap compatible cars.

    They issued a fair number of press releases along the way.

  • avatar

    This does look like the end is near.

    The business model is so inherently flawed that I remain surprised that the company was able to raise so much capital. The effort exhibits such a lack of understanding of the automotive industry that it’s stunning to see that it ever got this far.

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