Friday, February 05, 2010

Better Place demos battery-swap station

Wired reports: [brutally edited, read the whole article for a more balanced story]

The prototype is the first of what the Silicon Valley startup promises will be countless automated battery exchange stations that will one day dot our cities. The technology will make it possible to travel long distances in an EV without the hassle of stopping to recharge your battery, company founder and CEO Shai Agassi said.

The demonstration came six months after Better Place opened 17 EV charging stations in Tel Aviv, the first step in its plan to have 150,000 places to plug in throughout Israel by 2011.

Most of the major automakers are racing to develop electric vehicles, and the first of them are slated to arrive next year. The question many people have is just where we’re supposed to charge those cars when they aren’t in our driveways.

Better Place is but one company trying to solve that riddle, and it’s approaching it from two sides. First, it wants to blanket cities with charging stations that would be installed in public parking lots and other locations. That’s relatively straightforward; far more challenging - some would say ludicous - is its plan to establish networks of battery swap stations.

The swap technology is still a work in progress, and Better Place plans to continue refining it during trials in Japan and Israel using prototype EVs from Renault, Subaru and Mitsubishi. Once deployed, the swap stations will be used in conjunction with charging stations to keep electric cars going. Better Place will own the batteries and charging infrastructure and sell consumers “subscriptions” similar to cell phone plans.

“We’re an electrical services provider,” is how Sidney Goodman, VP of auto alliances, explained it to us recently. “We buy batteries and electricity, and we sell miles.”

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