Better Place and Nihon Kotsu electric taxi project – Click above for high-res image gallery

Better Place continues baby-stepping its way to battery-swapping domination with the launch of its 90-day trial of a trio of taxis in Tokyo. The test, implemented in conjunction with taxi firm Nihon Kotsu, kicked off with ribbon cutting and a demonstration of some converted Qashqai having their power packs replaced in the latest iteration of BP's battery switcher. Unlike the previous version shown in Yokohama last year, this one has integrated charging with "optimal thermal management" and storage for 12 packs. Incidentally, the cells within the packs are not from Nissan, as one might expect, but from A123 Systems instead.

The taxis will be available from 8 AM till 2 AM around the Roppongi district and, if you are really curious about how the system works, there is a visitors' center on-site as well. Can't swing a trip to Tokyo? Hit the jump for video showing off the system following the official press release.



[Source: Better Place]

PRESS RELEASE

Better Place launches switchable-battery electric taxi project in Tokyo

Next major global milestone involves full solution test in Israel in late 2010

Tokyo (Apr 25, 2010) -- Better Place today demonstrated the world's first switchable-battery electric taxi in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo's largest taxi operator. The 90-day project marks the next major milestone leading up to a complete system test of all components of the company's electric vehicle solution in Israel before year-end.

"Tokyo has more taxis than London, Paris, and New York combined, with approximately 60,000 vehicles, representing a high mileage, high visibility segment that can serve as the catalyst for this technology to transfer to the mass market," said Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan. "Since our initial announcement of this project, we've heard from cities around the world interested in converting their taxi fleets as a concrete way to fight CO2 emissions and urban pollution. Electric taxis are a pragmatic step forward for governments as well as a lucrative segment in the electrification of transport."

For the Tokyo electric taxi project, Better Place and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo's largest taxi operator, will operate three switchable-battery electric taxis, which are available to the public at the taxi line reserved for environmentally-friendly vehicles on the first floor of the Roppongi Hills Complex. Better Place worked on the design, engineering and conversion of the gasoline powered, crossover utility vehicles turning them into electric taxis with switchable batteries. The batteries for these cars are provided by A123 Systems. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry commissioned Better Place to conduct the Tokyo project as a result of the company's successful demonstration in Yokohama last year.

The battery switch station deployed in Tokyo represents a significant advancement over the Yokohama switch system demonstrated a year ago. The Tokyo switch station features the integration of battery storage and charging with optimal thermal management capabilities. The Tokyo switch station also features nearly continuous operation of switching batteries for the three vehicles while optimizing battery life and performance, which can be monitored in real time online.

The battery is a critical element of the EV and how it is managed and charged is crucial to its optimization. For heavy use vehicles such as electric taxis, the need for repeated rapid (5 minute fast) charging will degrade the lifespan and performance of the battery.

The industry is proposing various solutions to address extended range, but battery switch is the only feasible option-from the perspective of cost, flexibility (with the ability to manage charge time to less than 5 minutes), and technology-that will work in the near-term while offering a convenient, effective charging solution. Battery switch delivers an "instant charge" – a fully charged battery in less time than it takes to fill a fuel tank with petrol or recharge via other charging methods while 20-30 minute quick charge is impractical for such use. The duration, durability and robustness of the battery switch process and battery resistance to degradation will all be demonstrated under actual operating conditions with vehicles that operate nearly continuously and thus drive much more than average passenger vehicles.

By year-end, Better Place will test all components of its solution in Israel as the company continues to gear up for commercial launch in Israel and Denmark in late 2011. The complete Better Place solution integrates charge spots, in-car software, operations centers, cars, and batteries, in addition to switch stations, all managed as an intelligent network
.




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