By on October 3, 2012

Shai Aggasi, the visionary behind the Better Place EV battery swap network, has been ousted, with Better Place Australia’s CEO replacing Agassi as global CEO.

The news comes from Just-Auto, which carried Better Place’s official statement on the management change. Agassi will stay on as a board member and retain his stake in the company. Better Place has lost nearly $500 million since its foundation in 2007.

BetterPlace customer IsraellyCool has some interesting takes on the company from the perspective of an Israeli customer. While their product, customer service and lease deals are second to none, their marketing is apparently second rate.

TTAC has long followed the progress of Better Place, with Ed-Emeritus Niedermeyer being a particularly enthusiastic fan. But recent shifts in the world order have struck a blow against EVs, whether it’s the newly accessible supply of tight oil and natural gas or the abandonment of EVs by major OEMs like Toyota. Better Place isn’t yet ready for the grave, but in the five years since it was launched, the climate has changed significantly (no pun intended) and the change in management may precipitate deeper structural changes as well.

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17 Comments on “Shai Agassi Ousted From Better Place...”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I remeber reading about Shai Agassi’s plans in wired magazine 4 or 5 years ago. Conceptually, it was brilliant. Practically, the replacement of the IC engine has been far tougher than anticipated. Coupled with some early-life battery issues, specially in harsher climates, and this wonderful idea may wither.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      “Conceptually, it was brilliant.”

      Yes it was brilliant. Of course the brilliance of his plan was to convince credulous fools with plenty of cash (usually taxpayer’s) and no understanding of energy density to invest in a ludicrously unfeasible scheme, whilst simultaneously lining his own pockets.

  • avatar

    Even before I got a Leaf, I doubted the viability of the B-P idea.

    There are a host of practical challenges (billing, certification against battery abuse, etc), but I think battery pack design freedom would be greatly hindered by implementing this concept.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know why this hasn’t been mentioned more, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the battery swap process. If you bought a new car, would you take your brand new battery and swap it for a used battery that might have less capacity? If the battery gets damaged while charging who pays for it, you, the charger manufacturer, the battery manufacturer, or the car manufacturer? Would you be restricted from fast charging a rented battery since it reduces battery life? What if the battery damages the car? How do you sell your car, does the battery come with it? I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of now but the point is that there are probably more legal and psychological obstacles then technical obstacles to the whole process.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        Here’s a couple more. Where are they going to get the land to build these swap stations? Where are they going to store the batteries sufficient to service the hordes of customers wanting to change their battery. Don’t forget even the best lithium batteries have about 1/30th of the energy density of Petrol, ok electric motors are about 5 times more efficient but you’ll still have to find an awful lot more storage room than is at a regular gas station. Where do you install the substation needed to run the charging equipment?

        Given I need to use the swap station about five times more than I do in a ICE car, what is this going to my journey time to visit aunt Agatha in the country?

        And so on…

      • 0 avatar

        IIRC, most of your issues are moot to the vehicle owner since BP owns the batteries. The vehicle owner merely leases them and has no ongoing financial interest in any given battery pack. On-board software is constantly monitoring and managing charging and charge level, directing the operator to a charging station or swap station as needed based on the destination indicated by the operator.

      • 0 avatar

        The fact that Better Place leases the battery is the problem. Take this scenario as an example. If I get in an accident and the battery is damaged, will my insurance cover the cost to replace the battery or do I need an additional policy? It didn’t come as part of the car and if the insurance company considers it aftermarket equipment there is a limit to what the policy might cover.

        What if the battery is stolen, who pays to replace it? If it can be swapped out in minutes and is worth thousands of dollars someone will get the idea to steal it.

        It’s not that any one problem is insurmountable but there is likely to be a steep learning curve.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not all that complicated. Replace ‘battery’ in your scenario with ‘laptop’ and it’s already been addressed. And I doubt that it will be easy to steal the battery pack. It comes out of the bottom of the car and is quite heavy.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s more like your friends $10,000 stereo which was installed in your car. Oh, by the way, your policy only covers $4,000 in aftermarket equipment and you have to cover the difference because you didn’t add it as a rider on your main policy.

        I don’t see them as being hard to steal either, it’s designed to be removed and replaced in minutes. The biggest deterrent is probably the weight but for the potential payoff someone will make it happen.

  • avatar

    100M USD/yr loss? I wonder where all the money is going!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      Is is really that hard to figure out?

      This thing is a scam, pure and simple, all proceeds will go to the operator’s retirement.

      I simply can’t believe there are people here posting ebulliently about this harebrained confidence trick.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Another EV fanboi runs into reality. . .

    It seems to me equally likely that the energy density of a storage battery is going to be increased by a whole number factor (and that such a battery will not be destroyed by high amperage rapid charging) as it is that high-temperature ceramics will be used in internal combustion engines, making them dramatically more thermally efficient and therefore requiring dramatically less fuel for a given energy output.

    Since the infrastructure for fuel-based automotive propulsion is already in place, I would think investing in ceramic technology would be the better bet.

    And, I would add that wind and solar are — and always will be — marginal sources of electric power; and unless we are all willing to embrace nuclear power as the source of baseload power in the United States, all that EVs do is move the point of emissions from the vehicle to wherever the fuel-burning power plant is which is supplying the electricity to run them.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    “and unless we are all willing to embrace nuclear power as the source of baseload power in the United States, all that EVs do is move the point of emissions from the vehicle to wherever the fuel-burning power plant is which is supplying the electricity to run them”

    Tesla and Solar City may have solved this negative thought. They will be setting up solar powered charging stations that will feed electrical energy into our grid both while charging a car and while idle.

    If (yes it is a big IF) their idea works it would mean a driver could drive all over California and eventually all over the US and Canada on free energy.

    Sitting back and passing on assumptions and negative thoughts is easy, fortunately there are people who examine assumptions.

  • avatar

    It is very common for tech startups with venture funding to remove the founder of the company from the CEO role. These CEO’s who are “visionaries” (read: technology geeks) may have some technical expertise, but that is rarely matched with business expertise.

    Since the board represents the guys with the cash, the board will eventually boot the founder (or park him or her into a less powerful role) and replace the visionary founder with a nuts-and-bolts business guy. Agassi has been around for awhile, so if anything, it’s surprising that it didn’t happen sooner.

    That being said, Better Place offers a rather awkward and inelegant solution to a question that nobody asked. EV innovation is going to require either considerable leaps in battery technology or else replacing the battery with some other method of power storage. Better Place is just a poor concept, which only proves that even bad ideas can attract capital.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    The Mississippi River carries a lot of silt which is deposited when the river widens and enters the Gulf of Mexico. The river actually plugs itself and every 12,000 years or so the Mississippi takes a totally different route to the Gulf.

    We spend a great deal of tax money dredging and building dikes so the Mississippi will continue to flow past New Orleans.

    The finding, recovering, processing, moving, and burning of oil is a tremendous expensive complicated dirty mess that has many points where it can be plugged.

    You and I might be afraid to face the sources with oil and the oil companies but world leaders are very afraid. It is time to find a new path.

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