Better Place, the Israeli-owned company with ambitions to build an
electric-vehicle services infrastructure to lessen oil dependence,
continues to struggle with management and its business model. This
week, CEO Evan Thornley (pictured nearby) left the company just three months after the
company's founder, Shai Agassi, was
Since late fall, Better Place laid off 140 of its 400 employees in
Israel and is reportedly
eyeing another 150-200 cuts. Better Place in
November sold just 23 cars, and the Israeli business publication
Globes has reported that leasing companies have frozen orders to the
firm. In addition to Agassi's ouster, CFO and Israel CEO Moshe
Kaplinsky and several senior VPs have left the company.
Idan Ofer, chairman of the Board of Better Place, will assume the
role of executive chairman, while Alan Gelman, global CFO for Better
Place, will manage day-to-day operations. Ofer, worth $6 billion,
inherited--along with his older brother--his fortune from their
father, shipping magnate Sammy Ofer.
Former Better Place CEO Evan Thornley
“Evan stepped up at a critical junction for Better Place,” Ofer said
in a prepared
In the fall, Better Place, which hadn't turned a profit, raised $750
million from investors such as General Electric, but reportedly
burned through $500 million in development costs and suffered
development delays. In early November it secured
an additional $100 million in investment.
Better Place's vision for an "Electric Vehicle Network Services"
world spans the ecosystem from the electric vehicles it envisions
for the roads to the network and the battery-replacement business
One of the company's early successes was with Renault's Fluence
Z.E., which 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
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.