• Oct 28, 2010
After several months of successful operation in Tokyo, Better Place has decided that it's time for its switchable battery technology to make the trip to the Bay Area in California. Over the next three years, Better Place, with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other key groups, will deploy and operate four battery exchange stations in the San Francisco to San Jose corridor. A fleet of 61 electric taxis will be converted over to make use of Better Place's battery swap stations.

Though we're still not convinced that the whole battery swapping idea will work on a grand level, it makes perfect sense for a fleet of taxis. Given that most taxis drive continuously, they require a near-instant charge to continue their task of transporting the public. Waiting three to four hours for a standard charge, or even 20 minutes for a fast charge, is not really a feasible option in the fast-paced taxi world. However, battery swapping takes about as long as it does to refuel a traditional vehicle, and therefore, is ideally suited for many applications that require near non-stop use. Hat tip to Dan!

[Source: Better Place]

PRESS RELEASE

Better Place to Bring Electric Taxi Program to the San Francisco Bay Area


October 27, 2010

Palo Alto, Calif. – (October 27, 2010) – Better Place, with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, today announced a commitment to bring a switchable battery, electric taxi program to the Bay Area in partnership with the cities of San Francisco and San Jose to further cement the region's position as the "EV Capital of the U.S."

Taxis are a high-mileage, high-visibility segment that can serve as the on-ramp for technology transfer to the mass-market. Over the next three years, the program will deploy and operate four battery switch stations in the San Francisco to San Jose corridor that supports a fleet of zero-emission, switchable taxis. This fleet will offer many thousands of Bay Area residents and visitors their first EV experience. The program also has the potential to help California and the Bay Area meet their aggressive energy and climate policy goals when scaled to the entire region.

Electric taxis are the gateway to clean cities. While gas-powered taxis are fewer in number than personal cars, these high-mileage vehicles are disproportionally responsible for harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) and other tailpipe emissions, so electrification of this fleet is essential to making a real impact on air quality and oil consumption. Since taxis drive nearly continuously, they require instant charge of their battery to maintain quality of service and continue serving the public. Given the taxi business, waiting three to four hours for standard charge is not an option. Battery switch is the only option that allows the driver to recharge in less time than it takes to refuel, the means of range extension for today's gas-powered taxis.

Better Place has been successfully operating an EV taxi program in Tokyo, supported by the Japanese government. The pilot project began on April 26, in cooperation with Nihon Kotsu Co., Tokyo's largest taxi operator, and focuses on the feasibility of an automated battery switch process as means for taxis to have instant, zero-emission, range extension. In the first 90 days of the trial, the EV taxis drove over 25,000 miles using battery switch as the primary means of "instant charge" or range extension.

"Today marks a significant milestone in our march towards accelerating the mass adoption of electric cars in the Bay Area. This program will enable us to reach a broad audience and demonstrate a solution that offers drivers a more convenient option than today's gasoline cars," said Jason Wolf, VP of North America for Better Place. "The battery switch model is gaining momentum globally. Our Tokyo EV taxi program has proven to be an example to major metropolitan areas around the world, and we are pleased that the MTC recognized this and the Bay Area is taking a leadership position in the U.S."

This program will be developed in partnership with key regional stakeholders and organizations that are working together to build Bay Area EV leadership, including:

• Taxi operators and car sharing programs: Yellow Cab Cooperative, Yellow Checker Cab Inc.;
• Regional and state agencies: Bay Area Air Quality Management District
• Consumer and EV organizations: Plug-in America, AAA Northern California;
• Leading regional business/community organizations: Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, Bay Area Climate Collaborative, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, and others;
• San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

"In November 2008, I was joined by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Better Place in calling for making the San Francisco Bay Area the EV Capital of America," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "This partnership with Better Place to build the first electric taxi program with switchable battery EVs in the U.S. helps make this a reality."

Better Place remains on-track in developing and deploying countrywide networks of charging and battery-switching infrastructure in its first two markets, Israel and Denmark, for commercial launch in late 2011. Better Place will begin its initial network deployment in Canberra, Australia in late 2011 as part of a nationwide infrastructure roll out.

Tokyo Taxi Video

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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  • 18 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      it's pretty cool to have around but I'm not a believer of battery swap in the long run either.
      due to the tie to subscription as well as heavy infrastructure requirement.

      battery swap for formula 1 however..
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with the formula 1 comment completely! The current air intakes and tanks could be replaced with packs that could be changed during pitstops (Although the car will look like a skeleton with all the tires and sides gone ;)). But, I also think that this should apply to ALL racing. Imagine the electric superbike races going for more laps with pitstops to change the pack. It would make the races longer, and provide for a more interesting race. This could work for others too: lemans, rally, club, gt1-3, etc. Racing does improve the breed... I can dream can't I? Hehe
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dan, leave Chubama alone, it has done much for the EV movement and curtailed the H2 deb-boggle. Go, Chubama, go!

        You will look back on this as the good old days if Palimbaugh shows it head later.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yes we can : ) (pun on a faded dream because Obama was a lie too)

        I really don't care about the other races if F1 does it. that will make all the difference. and I think that FIA might want to do it but there is probably great resistance from the automakers. if F1 goes electric then suddenly they have to admit to themselves and all the clueless playstation mustang fans outthere that electric is the certain future and they emotionally prepared for that yet.
        there is an article on autoblog about VAG (volkswagen auto group) future platforms for sportscars and they talk about engine placement in the car. should it be mid engine..
        that's the type of considerations they make when they have absolutely no plans to go electric..

        the war is won but it will take several years before the deep south admit it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        EVsuperhero, I am entirely too wise to accept an evil man as good just because there is an even more evil man next to him.
        a christian is not a man of war.

        and telling HFC to go pleasure itself with a stick falls gravely short of making EVs happen.
        when I saw Chu in a hearing answer what will be the energy model 40 years from now with absolutely no clarity I knew there would be no help from him.
        any competent man would say, short of dramatic technological breakthroughs it will be electric cars running on wind, sun and waterfall power and excess power used to make synthetic fuel for engines and feedstock (chemistry raw material)
      bajohn3
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's why battery swapping doesn't make any more sense for Taxis than regular vehicles:
      Taxis are regular vehicles. It makes no sense, and is unlikely, for a manufacturer to build a swappable pack capability only for a taxi fleet, which is a small percentage of unit sales.
      A normal taxi shift is under 200 miles a day from what I understand, so instead of the cost and complexity of a swap machine and extra batteries, just build a 200 mile pack into the vehicle, or use a Nissan Leaf with it's 100 mile pack and do a relatively quick charge at lunch. Either way is better than this fast swap nonsense.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bajohn3
        You bring up a good point John. It will stifle competition. We want EV producing corps to compete and push the envelope of battery technology, in research and innovative manufacturing techniques. They will naturally, eventually have range wars. A standard configuration for all packs on EV's would inhibit these range wars.

        Ye ha! A range war! Just like Lincoln County in 1880. Regulators, mount up!
        bajohn3
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bajohn3
        Except fast charging can already handle long trips, with a much lower cost basis. Expecting automakers to agree upon a standard pack configuration is unrealistic, different vehicles will have different pack configurations even within manufacturers. The added expense of designing a fast swappable pack, building the swap stations, and stocking each station with enough extra packs to service all possible vehicles, will only increase the cost of EV's. It's also not necessary to go through all that for something that will rarely be used as you point out, and is already addressed with fast charging technology that already exists and will be less costly to roll out than a swap station infrastructure.
        bajohn3
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bajohn3
        Fast charging can be much faster than 30 minutes, it can be 5 minutes, and some batteries are not stressed by that, and it just won't happen very often. On a long trip most people don't mind stopping for 15 minutes or more for a break, they often do that even if they don't need a refill. Some people are fixated on how fast a swap might be while ignoring all the other negatives involved in that technology. Swapping makes EV's more expensive, period, and no one wants that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bajohn3
        Fast charging is not as quick & easy.
        1) It takes more like 30 minutes and you only charge up to 80%
        2) It stresses the battery and probably shortens the batteries life a little bit.

        Fast charging is nice but it just isn't as fast as a battery swap.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bajohn3
        Oh it is just a test program, don't analyze it so hard. I think someone else pointed out another nonsensical thing about battery swapping . . . the cab drivers will swap all the time because they'll be worried the next fare will be a long one and they don't have the battery power.

        The real purpose for battery swaps is to have battery swap stations on highways between cities. This enables EVs with short ranges to drive long ranges on occasion with easy. Need to drive from SF to LA? Drive 100 miles, 2 minute swap, drive 100 miles, 2 minute swap, drive 100 miles, 2 minute swap, drive 100 miles and arrive. Yes, you'll have to stop more often than with a gas car . . . but the stops will be shorter in duration. But other than those types of trips, you'll just always charge at home.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hot damn! I'm interested. I just don't like the "locked in" bit of Better Place. I'd like a car I can buy outright, charge myself, but then be able to go to their battery swap stations and pay only on those occasions I do a swap.

      I think I'm in the minority here that likes the battery swap system.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What about situations where someone with a 7,8,9+ year old battery shows up and gets a new one....how can they monitor these kind of things??
        • 4 Years Ago
        "What about situations where someone with a 7,8,9+ year old battery shows up and gets a new one....how can they monitor these kind of things??"

        That doesn't matter, as long as I get 100 miles every swap or full charge, I don't care if I get a brand new or old battery. The trick is to monitor the battery and take it out of circulation when < 100 miles minimum is reached. That logistic should not be all that hard to do with all the wireless datalogs EVs are going to get.

        If battery swap comes up/down the west coast and to Las Vegas or Reno, I would not buy another gasser for the rest of my motoring life.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's why you don't own the battery in this scheme. The reverse is equally likely to happen: you might have a brand new battery and swap out for an older used one.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think wireless charging makes more sense for taxis. Park over the coils, and keep the cab warm/cool with the external power; and charge the batteries as needed. Drive away instantly when a fare arrives.

      Sincerely, Neil
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is a like the 1980's format war that played out with VHS competing against Beta. Beta Place is a niche idea and better in its logistical implementation in its proof of concept. However, if the majority of manufactures don't bring their battery pack designs in line with the removable standards and configurations as outlined by the swapping stations, then the writing is on the wall, and it will be recorded on VHS tape and watched in the back seat of a Fool Cell SUV (long live tape eating VHS players, Yum Yum).
      • 4 Years Ago
      This makes a lot of sense for commercial vehicles, such as a depot dispatched taxi fleet.. they could also use CNG and even hydrogen if that ever becomes economically feasible. Please use minivans or some other reasonably sized vehicle.

      Gas is still too cheap for this to be practical, probably by the time it gets up to $4.50 a gallon and batteries come down a bit.. a year or two away I guess or perhaps one oil "incident" at an inconvenient time. The worlds economy is still depressed and that is keeping the demand for oil down, for now.
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