Better Place is just one of many companies trying to make electric vehicles the status quo. At this point, though, they are the only ones who believe in the idea that a battery swap station will work.
First of all, a clarification: BP says that the vast majority of the time, swapping out your battery will NOT be necessary. Given the battery’s anticipated range (100 miles) combined with the widespread installation of charge points (little fire-hydrant-shaped hubs where you can plug your car in), a typical customer will never need more miles than the battery can provide. The swap station is only for occasional 100+ mile trips, or for situations where you’re running on empty, but you don’t have time to stop.
How does it work? Well, I’ll let the video above do most of the talking. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you watch (as verified by BP representatives):
- The swap station’s footprint is considerably smaller than that of a typical gas station.
- These stations could have more than one line; if enough cars passed through a given station, BP would build more lines.
- It may look like such a station could only service a single size/type of vehicle, but BP quite vocally insists this is not true. The track width, the alignment of the swapping robot, the battery size and shape… all these things can work. The fact is, most EV designers are working with a car architecture where the battery is mounted underneath. Modifying these vehicles to allow their batteries to swap in an out is not as great of a technical leap as one might think.
So is there any update on when will people actually start driving these cars? It’s tricky, because if too many people buy cars with not enough infrastructure, it won’t work. Likewise, if too much infrastructure is built with not enough customers, BP will go bankrupt. It’s a delicate balance, and the customer base and infrastructure need to grow together. Hundreds of charge points are already in place in Israel, with more to come; by 2011 people can start buying the cars themselves.
written by Olin, May 14, 2009
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