"Better Place" is a somewhat novel system for getting electric cars on the road throughout the world. Basically, spent batteries are swapped out (and paid for) at a network of battery swapping stations. That way, batteries can be charged while they're waiting at the station, instead of requiring eight hours of garage time for 100 miles of charge.
It's a fine idea, though there are some potential drawbacks (expensive infrastructure, limitation to vehicle sizes, etc.) But it's a fine enough idea that Australia is likely going to see one of the first Better Place charging networks, and almost certainly the largest. Israel and Denmark have signed up to be the first pilot countries. But both of those countries are small, and it should be relatively easy to outfit the infrastructure.
Australia, on the other hand, is the 6th largest country in the world, with over 15 million cars on the road. The electric network will connect Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, and contain hundreds of charging stations within the cities, as well as one every 25 miles or so on freeways.
The electricity will be provided by Australia's major utility, AGL, and will be from renewable sources.
Specifics on what form these charging stations will take are scant, but it looks like the project will cost roughly $600M. Better Place's cars will be on the road in 2012, at which point the majority of the charging stations should be complete.
Australia will be the true test of whether Better Place can be scaled, and we'll likely see it as either the launching point or the graveyard of this well-funded technology.
written by Michelle, January 11, 2009
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