By >Daimaou - G.G-B
Better Place Powered EV Taxi. We had hands-on!
I am sure that you’ve heard about “Better Place”, the Israeli company that became famous for developing a universal battery swapping system for EV (Electric Vehicles).
The concept here is quite simple, instead of having to wait for hours to fully charge your car, you will, thanks to Better Place, be able to swap batteries in a very short time (Less than 1 minute) and continue your journey until you need to replace your battery.
On the paper the idea is brilliant and the system work just perfectly. The only problems we can see here is will anyone who’s carrying an EV will jump into this project? After all Better Place is “forcing” everyone to get some kind of standard-sized battery and swapping technology, forcing every constructor to “adapt” every future models to this “standard”… This, my dear friends, is the biggest challenge of Better Place, but in our case, this challenge has no relevance at all, at least in Japan.
With the cooperation of the Japanese government and one of Tokyo biggest Taxi Company, Better Place succeed built-up its first trial Swapping Battery charging Station as well as implementing its technology on several Dualis (Qashqai) NISSAN SUV Taxis.
The Dualis (Qashqai), used for this experiment, are just plain regular Dualis modified to accept Better Place batteries. This Batteries packaged in a carbon fiber body are lodged on each car’s bottoms and will be swapped in an earth bit from below thanks to a laser guided robot. The process is painless and just brilliantly fast.
Each cars are equipped with a EV Battery meter giving you the possibility to get the exact amount of juice left in your car, but also plugged, for the Japanese version, to an iPhone 3GS running a dedicated software including real time map data, battery temperature, as well as the localization of any other Better Place trial EV in Tokyo.
These Data are also sent to Better Place base station, allowing Better Place staff to get the location and live Car Data displayed on a PC running Google Map.
Installed on a select few “trial” taxis, available to any one to use, Better Place has with Tokyo a unique “playground” to test their theory and to fine tune their technology. Taxis in Japan use most of the time the same vehicle, so “imposing” such standards on taxis here may not be the most difficult things to do. Also, many taxi companies are swapping their GPL cars to Prius Hybrid, so basically the “concept” of the EV has already won here in Japan.
This being a trial, there are many limitations to the Better Place experience in Tokyo. First of all, each car is fitted with a “light” version of the actual Better Place battery, and this battery can only give up to 50km maximum of range to any taxi. Making it for example impossible to make a round trip from the center of Tokyo to its international Airport. The second limitation is that Better Place only has one “base” Station so far in Tokyo making it almost impossible to go further than 25km away from it. Limitations that will be of course solved as soon as Better Place install more of these stations around Tokyo.
Having the chance to get a ride on one of these taxis, I have to admit that I did not see a difference between a Better Place taxi and a regular one, with the exception of course of driving on an ECO friendly noiseless EV Car.
Personally I believe that Better Place’s swapping battery system is the future, at least for companies like taxis or even light vans. However, this will need the very same company to have a lot of these Better Place stations handy to avoid any range problems.
I also believe that people like you and me, enjoying EVs, will be glad to get such service if Better Place Station are widely available, however, I fear that Better Place will never succeed to attract every car manufacturer to accept their standards.