Better Place Debuts First EV Battery Switch Station in Tokyo

By EFish, in Tokyo Today in Tokyo, Better Place—a provider of electric vehicle (EV) services—launched, in cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, the world’s first switchable battery station for motor vehicles.

By EFish, in Tokyo

Today in Tokyo, Better Place—a provider of electric vehicle (EV) services—launched, in cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, the world’s first switchable battery station for motor vehicles.

Specifically, there is a battery station setup that allows cabs to have the batteries—developed by A123 Systems—replaced so that the cabs can stay in service. Instead of charging for hours, cab drivers can pull into the switch station, which will swap the depleted battery for a fully charged electric battery in less than a minute for continuous operation. Think of it as a quick service oil change station, but instead of getting new oil in 15 minutes, you get a fully-charged battery in 59 seconds.

 

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Taxis drive about 300 miles each day, which would require about three recharges for EVs. Electric vehicles can fully charge in 4 to 8 hours overnight with standard charging docks. There is the possibility of fast recharges—on the order of five minutes in length—but when this is done repeatedly for heavy-use vehicle like electric taxis, the lifespan and performance of the battery is degraded.

The switchable battery station will be used for a 90-day trial period in central Tokyo with three Nihon Kotsu taxi cabs. The cabs will be queued at a taxis line reserved for environmentally friendly vehicles on the first floor of the Roppongi Hills mixed-use complex.

This switching station is just a part of the bigger picture that Better Place has planned. That picture also includes tactically located public charging stations (EVs generally have range of no more than 100 miles, so the stations are well within that space). Better Place is planning a commercial launch of switchable EVs, public charging spots and switch stations in Denmark and Israel by the end of 2011.

Chances are, what I saw on the ground today in Tokyo will become the norm for every country—or perhaps every city where taxis are the principal way of transportation—worldwide within the next 10 years.