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.
Dan- Thanks for sharing this with us- very very interesting talk- where did this Shai Agassi come from? Very intelligent, great speaker, even better topic- I hope peoploe get to listen to him- This should be viewed by all PP members!
Sometimes he says something that makes me think he is Israeli but I really don't know. Glad you felt it was worthwhile. If you have friends that are not "my" friends, send 'em this way. There's always room for more.
Cars charged off a home system of photo voltaic panels, or perhaps at the downtown parking garage with a roof made entirely of solar panels.
And in my experience---12 years of living in a fully solar powered house,---it could be quite possible that I will be able to charge and drive a n electric vehicle off the system in a couple of years. Too bad it looks like foreign auto makers ae going to offer us the first cheap, small, lightweight efficient 60 mile capacity electric car. Once we have a few changing stations in our cities, that 60 mile cpacity will do it, and the vehicle won't have to lug around a heavy supplemental gas engine. Service trucks can carry a generator, I guess, lol.
I envy you being able to live in a fully solar power house. What a blessing! I believe the technology exists for more driving range. It surely does if we include hybrids. Invite some or all of your friends to become my friends so I can keep them up to date as well.
I like the Compressed Air Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. You have 3000 psi tanks that can be filled in a few minutes, 100 mile range and no pollution. They would not cost much and could provide the range need by most people for most local travel.
I don't know about "they", you have to design one first. The idea is the compressed air runs an expander (turbine) that runs a large alternator. The 20kw that the alternator produces charges the batteries and runs the motor. It is the range extender idea of the Chevy Volt taken to a series hybrid level. Since the expander runs continuously at a steady load, it can run at optimal efficiency. The batteries provide all the surge current needed by the motor. The Tesla has a 200 hp electric motor and goes 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds. Most people would not need this much, but you get the idea. As far as quiet...EVs are quiet and the hum of a compressed air turbine would be nothing.
The Better Place vision is not a hybrid, so after about 90 miles of average driving, the car computer decides, the battery life is being shortened, and notifies the driver that he is being charged about 20 cents per mile for battery damage, and the charge will double at about two mile intervals. A short term fix is to plug the car into any outlet for a few minutes, but a full charge takes several hours from typical outlets. The charge for battery damage will resume after a few miles.
Assuming there is a better place near by, the driver can take 5 minutes out and swap the battery at a cost of twenty dollars.
Alternately, the driver can do a quick charge in about 6 minutes at a Better Place and a few competing locations. Five dollars to about 80% charge, which allows him to go another 70 or 80 miles. The least costly option, if home is near by is to charge after about 11 pm when the power company will only charge about one dollar to recharge the battery.
The $20 option is best if the driver suspects the battery is near the end of it's useful life. If one percent of the discharged batteries accepted by Better Place are not suitable for an other customer, and replacement costs $1000, we have accounted for half of the $20 swap charge. I'm guessing as the 100 mile range is about the only detail in the video. What do you think?
For wide acceptance, several different vehicle models need to be offered. Some of these will be compatible with the automated battery swap. Bigger vehicles can have two batteries and pay $33 to swap both of them = two trips though the automated battery swap/ takes ten minutes? At present replacement batteries cost lot's more than $1000, but we can hope for that number due to ecconomy of scale. Some drivers will find ways to trick the computer, so as to avoid the charge for damaging the battery. I presume Better Place will help competing car manufacturers make their vehicles compatible with better place technology. So maybe aircar electric hybrid, but I'm skeptical about 100 mile range of even tiny air cars. Also 3000 psi compressed air is rarely available at present other than at scuba diving shops. Neil