Clayton B. Cornell writing for gas2.org on May 13th, 2009
Video of the switching station in action and photos added below.
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN- Last night at approximately 10:30 PM PST (1:30 AM EST), electric vehicle services provider Better Place will demonstrate key elements of their battery switching station technology. This is the first public exhibition of a battery switching station—which Better Place lauds as the final piece of a “total electric vehicle solution.” The company was invited by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment to set up an exhibit in Yokohama.
“Range anxiety,” as it’s called, describes the most fundamental fear expressed by would-be adopters of electric vehicles. It’s no different than the fear of driving through sparsley inhabited parts of the United States, where it’s important to know your car’s mileage and the distance to the next gas station.
Electric vehicles differ in that their fuel is electricity stored in a battery pack. But battery packs can’t be recharged in the same amount of time that it takes to pump 10 gallons of gas. It usually takes hours. That means that either EVs are restricted to short driving distances, fully charging during long breaks in commuting (like work or home), or, they just never take off.
Better Place intends to solve this problem, and thereby eliminate range anxiety, by swapping out used batteries for fully-charged replacements. If this can be done in the same time as a pit stop (under 5 minutes), it would offer drivers a hassle-free way to dramatically extend the range of their electric vehicles.
Better Place CEO Shai Agassi’s TED speech:
Clearly, Better Place will face numerous challenges when bringing this technology to market. A multitude of these stations must be built before range anxiety can be completely eliminated, and that’s going to take time an money (each station costs $500,000, though Agassi says that’s half the price of a regular gas station). But if the idea works, it could revolutionize transportation.
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If you do not read this post, at least watch and listen to Shai Agassi's talk. The prospects for the human race are so dire and so thrilling that it is hard to imagine living in a more strategic moment in history. It is a time when every human being must strive and struggle as if every life depended on putting in the maximum effort to free ourself from a slow but certain death that will come from continuation of business as usual. It is a time when we do...have... the strength and the knowledge of what to do but we may not have the wisdom to choose the difficult path even though it is relatively short compared to the familiar path to a hellish future.
The 440 volt reference was for magnitude comparison, although some HEVs have packs as high as 400 volts. The point is, what makes a useful configuration? Do people need battery swaps and quick charging, or just a great deal on car rentals for long trips. There is more than one way to provide the needed utility.
I worked in the medical technical field since 1979 and watch amazing changes take place during my lifetime all driven by the desire to heal and cure. Much of what we did had to do with mobile instrumentation which of course required batteries. Not a big deal for many who use electronic mobile devices on a daily basis today. In the medical mobile device field the battery is extremely important as we are dealing with human life not listening to music or chatting on a mobile phone. The batteries had many problems and failures in the beginning which drove us to make technology changes that we currently enjoy today. I have been hearing about electric cars since the first oil and Middle East crisis of my lifetime in the 1970's. The battery always seemed to be the major problem so the whole idea was shelved until recently driven by crisis once again. I believe we can make electric automobiles that will help solve our energy problems if we feel driven to do so. Steven
A custom 24 kwh of advanced lithium batteries would be around $20,000. I doubt that you could swap a bad pack for a new one, they are recyclable but can not be rebuilt as far as I know. I have not seen any hard numbers quoted, which makes you wonder what the real price will be for customers.