Electric car venture Better Place removes CEO Agassi

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Electric car venture Better Place said it had replaced chief executive officer Shai Agassi with the CEO of its Australia unit, five years after Agassi founded the company.

Agassi set up Better Place with the aim of using new technology to make electric cars more affordable and more convenient than gasoline-powered cars.

Better Place operates networks of stations where drivers can stop to exchange depleted batteries for new ones, or charge existing batteries, helping increase the cars' range and speeding their mass adoption.

It has started to set up its networks in Israel, Denmark and Australia, although there are limited numbers of electric cars on the roads so far.

Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia, has replaced Agassi, who will remain as a director, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Israeli financial media said Agassi was "ousted", since Better Place has lost nearly $500 million since it was founded.

In the first half of 2012, Better Place saw its loss widen to $132 million from $74 million a year earlier.

Thornley joined Better Place in 2009 and created EV Engineering, a venture between global automotive leaders, to develop and create switchable-battery electric car technology.

Conglomerate Israel Corp owns 32 percent of Better Place and was an initial investor.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

((steven.scheer@thomsonreuters.com)(+972 2 632 2210)(Reuters Messaging: steven.scheer.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))