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Project Better Place battery swap - Click above for a hi-res image gallery

One minute, 13 seconds. That's how long it took for the whiz-bang battery switcher engineered by Better Place to remove a battery from the undercarriage of its Nissan demonstration SUV and replace it with another. That's faster than either the fastest fast charge or filling it up with regular. You don't even get out of your car! Sweet!

The demonstration was part of the official opening of a Better Place exhibit in Yokohama, Japan, as part of a 6-month feasibility study being conducted by the Ministry of the Environment. The Land of the Rising Sun would like a full 50-percent of the cars sold there to be electric-powered by 2020. Besides the battery swapper, the exhibit also has four Better Place charging stations installed and an array of solar panels from Sharp to provide electricity.

While the machinery that conducts the battery switcheroo looks impressively simple and concise and may convince many about the viability of the plan, we suspect it won't enough to silence all the critics of the Better Place model. You can find the official press release along with a video after the jump. Check it all out and let us know if you're persuaded in the comments.



[Source: Better Place]



Press Release

Tuesday, 12 May 2009 Better Place Unveils First Automated Battery Switch for Japan EV Study Demos Charging Infrastructure for Fixed and Switchable Battery Electric Cars

Yokohama, Japan (May 12, 2009) -- Better Place today achieved a milestone in accelerating the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles by demonstrating the world's first battery switch technology along with electric car charging spots. This simple range extension technology delivers a cleaner, more convenient experience for drivers. Better Place was the only foreign company invited by the Japanese Ministry of Environment to demonstrate its switch technology, which provides a viable solution to make electric vehicles a reality by offering drivers virtually unlimited range.

Better Place showcased its battery switch platform today using a modified NISSAN electric crossover SUV to demonstrate how to switch a depleted battery for a fully charged one. The company also demonstrated its commitment to open network standards by charging a fixed battery, electric car, via one of four Better Place charge spots installed at the demonstration site. Recharging of the vehicle batteries is made possible by Sharp Corp. photovoltaic solar panels, creating a truly zero emission solution.

"Today marks a major milestone for the automotive industry as well as for Better Place," said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place. "For nearly a century, the automotive industry has been inextricably tied to oil. Today, we're demonstrating a new path forward where the future of transportation and energy is driven by our desire for a clean planet and a robust economic recovery fueled by investments in clean technology, and one in which the well-being of the automotive industry is intrinsically coupled with the well-being of the environment."

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is partnering with Better Place in Israel to enable zero-emissions mobility throughout the country by 2011. The realization of zero-emissions mobility in Israel will require the deployment of battery switch stations as well as a steady and reliable supply of vehicles adapted to accept the switchable-battery layout required by the Better Place business model. The project and the teams have been working closely together for the past two years and are excited about seeing the manifestation of their efforts in today's demonstration of the battery switch platform.

Better Place is committed to delivering a complete solution to drivers that includes in-car services, management systems and multiple ways for drivers to recharge their electric car including networks of charge spots and battery switch stations powered by renewable energy. The infrastructure offers drivers the same convenience to "top off" as they enjoy today with gasoline or petrol stations, with charge spots installed where you live, work, and shop, while battery switch stations are deployed for the exceptionally long drives.

"Japan has always been at the forefront of automotive engineering and design and maintains a strong sense of environmentalism," said Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan and Head of Business Development for Asia Pacific. "The launch of Japan's electric vehicle study is an important milestone in achieving a zero-emission transportation society, and our successful demonstration of charging vehicles with both fixed and switchable batteries is an important contribution towards moving the entire industry forward."

The automated switch process, which takes about a minute, is faster than filling a tank with gasoline, providing a cleaner, more convenient experience for drivers. The technology safely and quickly removes a depleted battery and transfers a fully charged battery into the vehicle. The process is seamless and automated, and the driver remains in the vehicle the entire time.

The system works with two robotic battery shuttles on an automated track system. One battery shuttle holds the fully charged battery, which will be inserted into the vehicle, while the other shuttle simply removes the depleted battery from the vehicle. At the end of the process, the track system returns the removed battery to a storage bay for recharging and preparation for use in another electric vehicle. The battery shuttles are designed to work with a wide variety of battery enclosure sizes and shapes for universal application to a range of electric vehicles.

The switch technology featured in the Yokohama exhibit will be further developed into production for the commercial switch stations, which will be deployed in Better Place markets around the world.

Better Place, the world's leading mobility operator, aims to end the world's dependence on oil for personal transportation by building a network for charging electric cars powered by renewable energy. Better Place enables markets to switch to a sustainable transportation model, reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions while fueling the "green" economy. With initial venture funding of $200 million, Better Place began deployment in Israel in 2008 and will begin operating the network of charge spots and battery switch stations in 2010. The company plans similar network deployments in Denmark, Australia, California, Hawaii and Ontario, Canada. With the network in place, Better Place buys batteries and clean electricity and sells miles/kilometers to provide drivers a convenient, affordable and sustainable alternative for mobility. More information is available at http://www.betterplace.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      What ‘s wrong with this picture? Why is Monsieur Agassi his French and Brazilian born Lebanese partners trying to sell something that as they describe it, most likely will not work?
      Maybe the hundreds of millions raised have something to do with it, or perhaps the size of this white elephant is already too big to fail, could it be? Nope! These are good people and they would not do something like that. Probably they are just not telling the whole story and that I respect, this is business not charitable work.

      Nevertheless I have to admit that is very convenient that in all the interviews and articles about their project, on no occasion was ever mentioned the fact that several scientists, engineers and highly qualified personalities from the scientific and corporate world, expressed their doubt about the practicality of what’s called, “The Project Better Place”. Well, I presume that those opinions are not that relevant and you should never forget that the PBP people belongs to the exclusive world of the CEO’s, and they don’t make mistakes.

      We all know that most likely EV’s are the future and they will have to be recharged. Probably! Maybe! What we don’t know yet it’s what kind of EV’s we are talking about and how are we going to “juice them up”.
      Like with any other start up franchise the business is first of all about real state or as they love to say: ”to guarantee the locations”. Obviously if you’re building or creating the necessary infrastructure to “swap” batteries makes all the sense of the world to add recharging stations and/or hydrogen refuel spots and who knows even bio-fuels pumps to those same premises and why not, just next to the convenience store an old world fuel “island” just in case a gasoline or diesel vehicle passes by?

      Wait! …Wouldn’t be easier to just retrofit the existing gas stations? No…. it can’t be. These are very intelligent people and they wouldn’t do something like that. For those who doubt of the viability of this project I repeat: You just do not know the entire story.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Remember that this sect - better place and nissan- are only a taxmoney jokes nobody are interrested in their products, Only mandated gasoline and now batteries are permitted at the expences of the workers with taxmoney costs, gasoline costs legislatives costs like war in irak, etc. they are just a part of the natural ressources cartel and banking system that believe that any ressources whatsoever must be possesed by them and restricted to others. They sell you your own death. They despise the water powered car of d. dingel and have decided to not work on a better carburation system and sell me 1 such car. If i find someone buying a nissan or renauld products, i will be sorry for the childrens that need to breath air. This madness is mainly because these chaps do not admit that we live forever and are trying to say to me that energy is limited, they are half right concerning them and they want to kill me for sure, but only my corpse and the associated biosphere and the rest of the corpses into the biosphere are at sake.
        • 5 Years Ago
        what would we do without gorr, eh ?
        • 5 Years Ago
        gotta have at least one communist
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's a pretty cool feat of automation, and it works faster and better than I would have imagined.

      Nonetheless, IMHO it "just ain't gonna happen." Having "swapping" stations like this would require similar --if not identical-- mounts, battery packs, locations relative to the wheels, etc., in every EV. I could see, say, Nissan setting up a chain of stations for its OWN vehicles, but I seriously doubt that other manufacturers would conform to the chain's "standard." I mean, if they can't even agree on a plug receptacle, the chances of standarizing the EV powertrain are about nil.

      Moreover, given recent battery improvements, swapping might prove irrelevant. For example, with a high-speed, 480V charger, Mitsubishi's iMiEV can recharge to 80% in 30 minutes and the Tesla Model S could supposedly recharge its pack in 45 minutes. And then there is the recent announcement from MIT claiming a 100 times faster charging rate:

      http://www.zoomilife.com/2009/03/19/battery-technology-breakthrough-could-revolutionize-electric-vehicles/

      I don't know about others, but when we travel cross country relatively frequent meal and bathroom breaks are a necessity. Indeed, the range of a Roadster or a Model S actually exceeds the bladder tolerance over in the shotgun seat. Inevitably there are lines at the pit stop, and then once we have dealt with our own "refueling" needs, 30 to 45 minutes have often elapsed anyway.

      To put it another way, wouldn't it make more sense for restaurants along the interstates to simply offer free fast-charge stations for its EV customers?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm totally sold. However, I'm not sure ALL Better Place swapping stations need to be proprietary. Why not partner with existing gas stations to, say, convert car wash bays into these swap stations? Just rebrand the side of the old car wash bay and BADA-BING! A gas/battery swap station.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Great work. They use simple robotic that would be quite straightforward and cost-effective to implement. I believe this will cost way less than installing insulated underground gaz wells in traditional gaz stations.

      The good news is that Tesla's Model S will be compatible with this system as well as supporting the standardized plug proposed by GM. These guys are all working toward standardization, which is remarkable.

      What I like about Elon Musk and Shai Agassi is that they don't care about skeptics. They just do their thing slowly and surely, hitting one milestone after the other.

      It's always easier to destroy & mock than to build. Go Better Place!

      - Nick -
      • 5 Years Ago
      Also, I feel that while someone obviously put a lot of hard work into that, I can't really see it catching on. Most people (at least in the US) have enough trouble even staying in their lane. Driving up on two skinny ramps with a raised hole between them is just asking for a disaster in the making. Susie soccer mom will rush in at 40 MPH, miss the ramp, and drop half of her overweight SUV in the middle, smashing the ramp, smashing the tracks for the battery carrier, and basically significantly damaging the station's infrastructure, meaning they have to go down for days or weeks and lose all that revenue.

      And then Susie soccer mom will sue because she thinks the station set up is "dangerous."
        • 5 Years Ago
        There are literally thousands of oil change stations set up like this. The ramps are not necessarily required, but in the standard setup at an oil change station accidents are extremely rare. It may not be 100% fully automated when there's a person guiding the driver onto the platform, but hey, new jobs are good, right?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm sure this one was a raised platform for demonstration purposes. In the wild, they could be built flush with the ground to make them as easy to use as existing automated car washes (which the Susie mom's of the world have yet to destroy).

        I quite like the idea of standardized packs. In the future, as batteries improve, you could be swapping out for packs with considerably more energy in them than ones today, letting you go farther and farther between swaps. Or, they could build lighter packs in the same format without a loss of energy density, giving you a zippier performing car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        in the webcast they say, that the the hole is closed and will only be opened when the vehicle is turned off. So it seems to be impossible to get into that hole for this tennis-soccer or whatever mom.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought that the whole *Project Better Place* was to be based on a cellphone-type model, meaning that a customer is going to sign a contract for a service provided.

      "The car" SA said, "may end up being 'free'".

      My feeling is that this WILL WORK in some locales (around the planet) and, it will prove to the rest of us that both, it is viable, and people WELCOME change.





      • 5 Years Ago
      Wake up boys.. Susie just might be building EVs and robots in school, she'll make sure her mom can align the car for charging... Get outta the box or be buried in it!
      Stop listening to sock puppets and either start saving for a coming-at-you EV or build one yourself.. Then you will be better placed to access the value of A BETTER PLACE.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They obviously beat me to the punch since developing this system would take years, but I whole-heartedly agree that this type of system needs to be standardized and implemented, but there are some major caveats: http://robertdot.livejournal.com/14462.html

      I participated in a discussion about this system and caveats either on AB or ABG before, but it's near impossible to find old comments without spending hours flipping back. So, unfortunately, I can't link anyone back to that discussion.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Battery swapping feels like ignoring the advancement of technology. If batteries like those in the Tesla Roadster, that being Li-Ion with a 220 mile range and 3.5 hour 220v charging time, lasts roughly 6 years or something. (tesla’s batteries don’t last thing long because they fully discharge, i think). But if that’s now, what about 10 years from now? What about 15? 20? Battery swapping stations will appear as a fad when battery tech sucked, won’t they? I mean, when i’ve got a 500-1000 mile range EV in 10 or 15 years….i’m gonna trip over a plug SOMEWHERE in that time, would i still want to swap out the battery?

        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, energy density of batteries will improve, but that improvement could go to improving range or reducing battery size and cost, or a little of both. I suspect we will see range leveling off in the 400 to 500 mile per charge range, because getting longer range would cost more but wouldn't be of much benefit - trips over 400 miles are rare.

        Also, "10 minute" charging gets increasingly difficult when the total stored energy is increased to achieve that longer range. 10 minute charging was barely possible with a 35 Kwh battery, but it would get totally ridiculous with 70 to 100 Kwh battery packs. So, ironically, those higher range packs would be where battery swapping would really shine for drivers in a hurry. That is why Tesla is planning a 45 minute fast charge and battery swapping for their model S.

        Of course, not all plug-ins will use battery swapping. Plug-in hybrids won't need it, some BEVs won't be designed for it, and it would be totally absurd in a NEV.

        • 5 Years Ago
        If the market wants swapping, then hey, better than oil. I'm a skeptic about it, but we'll see! someone made a comment about how with better place, your car could be like your cell phone contract...in which you pay a monthly usage fee and a very low price, or free, car. You would of course turn in everything when your contract was up, just like a lease. I definately think the public would be appealed to that. I would still want to own my battery and my car though, i think the cost savings will *most likely* be greater than paying a monthly lease to better place.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Awesome! I'm all for it.

      Common battery forms need not be restricted. All you need is simple dimensional constraints and battery could be any form, staying within that dimension. Advance in battery would actually make the form factor a non-issue in the future.

      Advance in battery capacity doesn't mean eliminating swapping stations. For long trips, you'd still want to swap because you may not be anywhere near a plug, or stay long enough (or want to) to charge 1000 mile capacity.

      Susie mom wouldn't be using swap station often, if at all, unless Susie mom goes on a long trip. Susie mom would be plugging in every night. Swapping station allows for unlimited range, just like gas stations. Besides, it's easy engineering wise to dumb-proof a driver's ability to stop at a designated spot.

      I agree with captainpeace...battery, swap stations, plugs, etc should not be proprietary...I'm not sure BP wants that either. There's more than enough business to go around when you're replacing oil.

      I'm sure they will have a model for "using your own generated electricity" with battery swap (or battery that is not yours)...BP is too smart not to include that...being that their whole mission is to do away with dependency (in oil).







      • 5 Years Ago
      This will be practical and if the price is right economical for trucks, buses, delivery vehicles and taxi fleets, ie everybody driving a lot daily around the same municipal area. Only a few swapping stations in one city would be enough to set the whole thing running.

      In Europe with our expensive gas, sometimes punitive road taxes, toll booths and what not I could see some quick economic returns too.

      Leased batteries do not come around as too thrilling an idea for private car drivers though.
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