SAN FRANCISCO--Shai Agassi, the swashbuckling entrepreneur who envisioned the
world as a better place with his battery-swapping infrastructure
company Better Place, has been pushed aside as CEO as the company
struggles with its technology and business model.
[Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
switch comes as Better Place wrestles with slow adoption and
technical issues in countries it's targeted as pilot markets. Agassi
once predicted a robust network serving thousands of cars by 2011. Today, there are about 36 battery-swapping stations in those target
countries, Israel and Denmark, serving about 750 cars.
Agassi, a former executive with the software firm SAP, reportedly
had clashed with the board about future direction. Agassi remains a
board member and major investors.
Better Place's vision (see Agassi on TED Talks below) spans the ecosystem from the electric vehicles
it envisions for the roads to the network and the business model
On the automotive side,
Fluence Z.E., built by Renault, features a wound rotor
synchronous motor, with 70 kW maximum power of 70 kW. Its
lithium-ion battery has an energy capacity of 22 kWh, compared, for
example, with the Chevrolet Volt's 16 kWh capacity. Its range
is rated at 50-200 miles, depending on driving conditions. The
battery charges on a 220V home charge in about six hours or five
minutes using the "QuickDrop" Better Place replacement system.
The battery technology claims 3,000 charging cycles, or a lifetime
of about 6-10 years. Batteries weigh 500-600 pounds and are removed
and replaced at the car's under carriage. Better Place's
network of battery-swap stations are automated, using robots to
remove and replace batteries while the driver waits inside the car.
The process takes five minutes. The removed battery is automatically
shifted to a charge port and rapidly recharged.
Better place also has a novel subscription business model in which
the car owner pays $350 a month not only for the battery, but
a home charge system and free access to a nearby QuickDrop station.
Better Place, which has yet to turn a profit, raised $750 million
from investors such as General Electric, but reportedly burned
through $500 million in development costs and suffered some
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Better Place has enough
cash in reserve (nearly $200 million) to last a little more than a