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Better Place Electric Car visitor centre opens

Tue, 09 Feb 2010

Better Place have opened a visitor centre in Israel to demonstrate their battery swap technology for electric cars

Last October we wrote about a start-up company in Israel – Better Place – that had a new way forward for electric cars by taking the purchase of battery packs out of the equation, and was developing a system for ‘Battery Swap’ stations where electric car owners could drive in and swap their battery pack for a fully-charged one in a few minutes.

That story first brought to our attention our favourite quote of last year – by Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn – who said “A hybrid is like a mermaid: if you want a fish, you get a woman; if you want a woman, you get a fish.” Which probably explained why Nissan – and its partner Renault – got involved with Better Place.

Better Place aims to address the main concerns of electric car drivers by making the battery packs in electric cars ‘swappable’. In essence, buyers of electric cars don’t buy the batteries but lease them from Better Place. They can top-up the charge – at home or at a charging station – when it’s convenient, but they can also drive in to one of the Better Place battery swap stations at any time and have the entire batter pack swapped out and replaced by a fully charged one in a few minutes.

This system – based on the technology used to swap missiles on military aircraft – reduces the up-front cost of an EV, takes away range anxiety and , because part of Better Place’s plan is to restructure the national grid to cope with the increased demand, make the system entirely viable.

The first place to start the Better Place system is Israel. Israel is a technology-focused country – with an aversion to oil-dependency – with a small population (no bigger than that of London) so the logistics are easier. It is also the place that Shai Agassi – Better Place boss – managed to get the project off the ground with the involvement of former Israeli PM Shimon Peres.

As things progress Better Place are keen to demonstrate to the media and the public how the system works and how much progress is being made. So they’ve opened up a visitor centre in Ramat Ha’Sharon. The centre has a test track with charging locations and battery swap stations. They have a fleet of 11 Renault Lagunas converted to electric which are used to demonstrate the technology.

We are pretty sceptical about electric cars in general, but this system does address many of the concerns we have about the practicality of EVs anywhere other than in contained urban environments. Paradoxically, although the contained urban environment is the best place to run an EV, the lack of off-road parking in major cities precludes home-charging for many EV owners. That’s not an issue with Better Place’s battery swap system.

Interesting stuff. We’ll be keeping an eye on progress.

Source: Better Place

By Cars UK