Israeli electric car company CEO Agassi ousted

Shai Agassi has been replaced as chief executive of Better Place, the Israel-based electric car company he founded with great fanfare five years ago in Palo Alto.

In an Oct. 2 statement, the company gave few details about Agassi’s departure, saying it was a “natural point in the company’s evolution.”

Shai Agassi tries out an electric taxi in Tokyo in 2010. photo/ap-shizuo kambayashi

But a senior company official confirmed Agassi had clashed with the board about future strategy.

The company said the head of its Australian operations, Evan Thornley, would take over, while Agassi, still a major shareholder, will remain on the board of directors.

Agassi launched Better Place in 2007, offering a vision of a world without gasoline-powered automobiles.

With battery-powered cars limited by range and long recharge times, he offered an elegant solution: a national network of “swapping” stations that would enable motorists to change their batteries with fully charged ones in a matter of minutes.

The project won the support of Israeli President Shimon Peres, received financial incentives from the Israeli government and made Agassi, 44, into a celebrity CEO. He was a central character in “Start-Up Nation,” a best-selling book about Israel’s high-tech industry, and was named to Time magazine’s 2009 list of the 100 most influential people.

In its early days, Agassi expected the Israeli network to be complete by 2011, with thousands of cars on the roads. Today, a total of about 750 all-electric cars are on the road in Israel and Denmark combined. — ap & jta