With a $200M investment in his pocket, Shai Agassi is planning to build a network of battery-charging stations in the US, Europe and emerging markets with his new venture called ‘Project Better Place‘, which already has a head count of ten. The seed round was raised from two funds and a group of private investors. The Israel Corporation, a large Israeli transportation and technology holding company, invested $100 million earlier this year. The rest was invested by Vantage Point Venture Partners, and heavy weight investors Edgar Bronfman Sr., the liquor magnate (Chivas Regal, Crown Royal), and James D. Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank.
The new system will sell electric fuel on a subscription basis and will subsidize vehicle costs through leases and credits. In a recent interview, Shai said that tests of prototype vehicles would start in early 2008 and the company would begin commercial sales and service in 2010.
Unlike Tesla Motors and other electric-car ventures that focus on the battery itself (performance, life cycle and cost), Shai’s venture plans to extend the existing electric-power grids with a wide network of recharging stations in urban areas, that will be supplemented with a smaller number of automated battery-replacement stations.
Shai Agassi, 39, joined SAP in 2001, when it acquired his Israel based company, TopTier software .
Check out the New York Times and WSJ for the rest of the story. To learn more about the project, see the Fact Sheet (Pdf).