• Aug 26th 2009 at 1:56PM
  • 7
When Better Place wanted to demonstrate how their battery switching station would operate they chose Yokohama Japan as the backdrop and now the land of the rising sun is returning some of that love. The electric vehicle infrastructure company has received an "award" to carry out a pilot project involving a switching station and battery-powered taxis operated by Nihon Kotsu in Tokyo. Although cabs comprise just two percent of the cars in Japan they're responsible for a whopping 20 percent of the CO2 emitted. Expressing a desire to replace the entire 60,000-strong Tokyo fleet in the next decade, the trial gets underway modestly in January with up to four vehicles specially prepared using commercially available platforms by the venerable engineering firm Tokyo R&D Co. That company will also build the battery swapper, situated in the Roppongi Hills area in Central Tokyo, and supply the diagnostic software for the three-month test. Besides the taxi business, Better Place also has car rentals and sharing services on its "to do" list. The official press release awaits you after the break.

[Source: Better Place / Bloomberg]
Original photo by letsputphotographsonthe internet. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.


Better Place Targets Tokyo Taxis for Battery Switch Application

Wins Electric Taxi Project from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Better Place today announced that it has received an award from the Japanese government to conduct a pilot project in Tokyo for the world's first electric taxis with switchable batteries. Better Place will partner with Tokyo's largest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu, in the project commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry's Natural Resources and Energy Agency. The project, which comes on the heels of the company's successful battery switch demonstration earlier this year in Yokohama, is slated to begin in January 2010.

"Japan continues to be a leader in automotive engineering and innovation, and the government's funding of Better Place for the world's first battery switchable electric taxis is a testament to the country's commitment to sustainable transportation," said Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan and Head of Business Development for Asia Pacific. "This puts the Better Place battery switch system to use in a real-world application involving heavy-use vehicles that drive much more than the average passenger car. It also enables us to begin to convert taxis to clean, zero emission transportation."

Japanese taxis represent a mere two percent of all passenger vehicles on the road in Japan, yet they emit approximately 20 percent of all carbon dioxide (CO2) from vehicles due to their average distance traveled in a given day. In Tokyo alone, there are approximately 60,000 taxis, a far greater number than in New York, Paris, or Hong Kong. The outcome of the Tokyo pilot program for electric taxis could point to opportunities in other urban centers. Additionally, success within the heavy use taxi industry will help to ensure efficient technology transfer to the mass market, where daily mileage is far less on average.

The electric taxi pilot will showcase the everyday use applications of the Better Place model, and will involve the construction of a Better Place battery switch site at a location in the Roppongi Hills area in Central Tokyo. Up to four newly modified and fully operational electric taxis will be operated from an existing taxi lane for environmentally-friendly vehicles at the Roppongi Hills complex.

Tokyo R&D Co., a specialist in automotive engineering and production, will supply the EVs based on commercially available vehicles with the necessary battery latch mechanisms and switchable batteries. Tokyo R&D also will be involved with building the battery switch site and provide diagnostic software for the pilot.

The vehicles will be put into standard taxi service by the Nihon Kotsu taxi company. Battery switching duration, vehicle range, and battery resistance to degradation will be tested under actual operating conditions.

The Tokyo taxi pilot brings Better Place one step closer to delivering a cleaner and more convenient refueling experience for drivers worldwide.

About Better Place

Better Place, the leading electric vehicle services provider, is accelerating the global transition to sustainable transportation. Better Place is building the infrastructure and intelligent network to deliver a range of services to drivers, enable widespread adoption of electric vehicles, and optimize energy use. The Better Place network addresses historical limitations to adoption by providing unlimited driving range in a convenient and accessible manner. The company works with all parts of the transportation ecosystem, including automakers, battery suppliers, energy companies, and the public sector, to create a compelling solution. Based in California and privately held, Better Place has operating companies in Israel, Denmark, and Australia. More information is available at http://www.betterplace.com.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Excellent! Real world trials for real world data on a much more demanding utilized cycle!

      IMHO, this is the answer to range and quick "fuel up" that critics always site against BEVs.
      There's no other technical problems left to allow competition with any other alt fuel...only the adoption issue, but that is very subjective.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have little faith in battery swapping. Three reasons:

      1. Like Hydrogen you need to build an expensive infrastructure.
      2. Battery technology is advancing faster and faster, in the foreseeable future we could have lost cost batteries with ranges over 1,000 miles, battery recharging would become less and less, making stations less and less necessary.
      3. Good battery/Bad battery. Example: Drive A drives over a bump in the road and damages his battery slightly causing it to loose charge. Driver A goes to a station and does a swap. Driver B gets Driver A's battery, not knowing he has a bad battery. Driver B still pays the same as Driver A but is getting swindled as he is loosing charge but paying the same price. Also the bad battery may stay in circulation.

      I am sure Better Place have point 3 worked out but would it affect the warranty on the battery or your monthly fee?
        • 6 Years Ago
        1. Since battery swapping would only be used for high volume fleet operations (like this one!), long distance travellers, and the rare "bad battery" replacement, relatively few swapping stations are needed. Most "refilling" would still be done by chargers, at a much lower installed cost. With H2, there would have to be many more H2 filling stations to meet all refilling needs, both local and long distance, so the infrastructure costs would be higher.

        2. With a modular design, improved batteries could be easily implemented. At first, extra capacity batteries would cost extra, but eventually the older batteries would be due for replacement, perhaps no longer made, and everyone would get the newer high capacity batteries. An analogy is when the phone company first introduced "Touch Tone" dialing it was an extra cost option, but after new switching systems were installed, the extra cost was dropped and touch tone made available to everyone, as it was more efficient with the new computerized switching systems.

        3. The battery packs and the swapping system would be designed to detect defective battery packs and remove them from circulation. Also, batteries designed for swapping would be much easier to replace if they were damaged or defective.
        • 6 Years Ago
        1. Not as large as FCV infrastructure. Only where needed since 1/2 of that infrastructure is already there: a regular plug can be added practically everywhere. 1/2 the cost of current gasoline station.

        2. That is one reason why you DON'T want to own the battery.
        Also, larger battery does not negate charge time...actually makes it worst.

        3. Like KK said.

        Warranty cost should have been built-in in the cost model.
        • 6 Years Ago
        In addition to these drawbacks, I don't think battery swapping stations for normal consumer use make economic sense when compared to fast charging (at the say the 70kW level).
        • 6 Years Ago
        1. All new power sources would need new infrastructure.

        2. For the foreseeable future, the battery will be one of the most expensive components (if not THE most expensive) on an electric car. There will always be an incentive to get a car with a smaller battery (just big enough for a day of commuting/errands), and resort to swapping for longer trips.

        3. I know my laptop battery contains a monitoring circuit; it even has LEDs that display the battery charge level. I expect car battery packs have far more sophisticated electronics that monitor the voltage and charge level, and alert the car if it detects damage or degradation.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Buses, taxis, and race cars are vehicles I think it makes sense to go through the trouble of enabling quick battery swaps. In these cases, the time value of a quick change justifies the expense, you have a central location where you perform the swaps, and all the batteries are "within the company" as it were. These are instances that don't require building out a large infrastructure that has to be compatible with a variety of vehicles.
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