Shai Agassi is an entrepreneur who has struck a multi-million dollar deal with Renault/Nissan and the Israeli government to bring electric cars to Israel (and eventually the world…) through his startup Better Place.
Pete Leyden from the New Politics Institute outlines Agassi’s transformative vision and announces that Agassi will be speaking at an upcoming NPI event:
Shai Agassi is trying to transform the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and eventually make the $1.5 trillion-a-year gasoline industry obsolete. He is the CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up called Better Place that is trying to jumpstart the electric car business with an approach to building an infrastructure for swapping out batteries in a practical, quick way.
Agassi is no wide-eyed dreamer. He was one of a handful of top executives at SAP, the third-largest software company in the world, and he barely was edged out for the top CEO position in 2007. When he did not get that job, he left to become the founder and CEO of Better Place. Since then he has successfully lobbied the Israeli government to back his plan to quickly scale up electric cars in Israel.
A recent NYT piece goes into the business of Project Better Place:
The idea, said Shai Agassi, 39, the software entrepreneur behind the new company, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the cellphone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware — the car — and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a cellphone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of gasoline.
Mr. Agassi and his investors are convinced that the cost of running such a car will be significantly cheaper than a model using gasoline (currently $6.28 a gallon here.)
Agassi has been working with the government of Israel to create clean-energy-friendly policy to support this initiative. From Agassi’s blog:
On January 21st 2008 we set the first step towards getting an entire country off its addiction to gasoline…We had a country, Israel, announcing its intent and actions towards a strategic shift from oil as the main source of transportation energy towards clean electricity (mostly solar) as the source of energy powering cars. The announcement was made at the visionary leadership level – by President Shimon Peres – who has been one of the driving forces behind Project Better Place for the last year. The Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert – who promised and delivered relentless backing across all government branches, and executive power through his own PM office General Manager, Ra’anan Dinur, drove the vision into policy. The Ministry of Finance, converted the policy into green taxation law, in the making for more than 2 years, by a team in the finance ministry, which made sure there is a great starting run for zero-emission vehicles, but more importantly – long term visibility for the law.
Businessweek followed up with a profile of Agassi and more expansion on the vision:
Agassi contends that Israel is just the start. He hopes to expand his business into several other countries over the next few years, with China, France, and Britain among the potential markets. Ultimately, he believes that his company and others like it could shake two pillars of the global economy, the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and the $1.5 trillion-a-year market for gasoline. “If what I’m saying is right, this would be the largest economic dislocation in the history of capitalism,” says Agassi.
Here’s hoping that the more radical aspects of Agassi’s plan (e.g., applying the cellphone or razor & blades business model to cars) will outweigh the challenges (e.g., only 50-100 miles of driving before a 10 minute recharge is needed from a specialty battery station) involved in moving towards an electric car future.