from the June 2010 issue

Shai Agassi's Better Place raises $350 million

Better Place, which is developing infrastructure for electric cars, has raised a huge $350 million in fresh equity as part of a second round of financing.

The company, founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, formed the concept of battery-swapping stations to complement a network of charging sites. Electric cars such as Zoe, being developed by partner Renault, would be able to extend their range by swapping depleted batteries with fresh ones, without the need of an additional back-up engine that burns fossil fuel.

Another key concept behind the swapping stations is that service would be very fast.

Agassi, an Israeli who left a rapid-rise career track at SAP to focus on making the world "a better place" through green technologies, aims through the company to reduce the world's dependency on oil.

Better Place noted that the investment is one of the biggest ever made in the "clean tech" sector. It values the company at about $1.25 billion, Better Place added.

Kevin Adeson, HSBC's head of global capital financing, will now join the Better Place board. HSBC invested $125 million of its own funds in the company, giving it an equity stake of roughly 10% in Better Place.

"We are absolutely convinced that the paradigm change from cars with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles offers great possibilities for growth both in the auto industry as well as for utilities," said Stuart Gulliver, HSBC executive director and head of its Global Banking and Markets business.

Better Place reaffirmed its original target of beginning full commercial operations in Israel at the end of 2011, when industry partner Renault plans to offer the first car with a replaceable battery.

"Due to our technology, our concept and the stable partnership with Renault, we have a lead over all other alternative energy mobility concepts of at least two years," Shai Agassi said in the statement.

Renault entered into an alliance with Better Place in February 2008. The French car company's role in the partnership is to create a 100% electric vehicle, while Better Place's role is to build an electric battery switching network throughout Israel. Renault's concept for Zoe is a zero-emission vehicle that also looks smart, the company said.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2010

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