Better Place Shows Off Europe's First Battery Switch Station

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Better Place has moved a bit further down the road in its quest to corner the electric vehicle market. In Denmark, the company has just unveiled Europe's first Battery Switch Station, which will serve as the cornerstone of Better Place's biggest real-world test to date.

The grand event was held at a new Better Place facility in Gladsaxe, just outside Copenhagen. The vehicle used to demonstrate the station's functionality was the Renault Fluence Z.E. -- which isn't terribly surprising, given Renault's close partnership with Better Place and its founder/frontman, Shai Agassi

Over the next nine months, additional Better Place Battery Switch Stations will be built across the country in partnership with numerous municipalities and DONG Energy. In total, Better Place aims to construct 20 such facilities in building a nationwide charging infrastructure.

The Battery Switch Stations are almost fully automated, and motorists can stay buckled up for the entire process. Drivers swipe their membership card at the entrance, and according to the company's press release, "The rest of the process is automated, similar to going through a car wash, so the driver never has to leave the car. In just a few minutes, a robotic arm removes the depleted battery and replaces it with a full one and the driver is back on the road."   

Our take

Of the many electric vehicle manufacturers vying for a piece of the consumer market, Better Place may face the toughest road ahead. While some drivers like the idea of swappable batteries, most prefer to recharge. In fact, according to a recent survey from Accenture, 62% of consumers would rather recharge, compared to the 38% who'd like to trade dead batteries for fresh ones.

Granted, 38% isn't a terrible figure -- truth be told, it's higher than we'd have thought -- and granted, the EV charging battle may not be all-or-nothing. In fact, there may be room on Planet Earth for both sorts of electric vehicles.

But Better Place still faces a huge hurdle, and that's the massive infrastructure developments that the swappable-battery model requires.

Many current EVs can charge from a standard wall plug, and in the future, even that may not be necessary if inductive charging becomes the norm. (Given the diminishing importance of wires and cables in our daily lives, we're betting/hoping that it will.)

Better Place, however, requires real estate, buildings, and large-scale charging stations. And if someone comes along with a smarter, more clever battery system, who's to say that Better Place will be able to retrofit its stations to accommodate the new standard? It seems like a lot of work for an intermediate step toward an all-electric future.

But then, maybe we haven't had enough coffee to be fully optimistic this morning. Feel free to offer some counter-arguments below.

[Better Place]

 
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Comments (16)
  1. I like what MIT is researching now. Suck out the depleted electrolite and replace with fresh charged up juice. In a master of a few minutes you are on your way. Just like a gas station now .

  2. Battery swapping cries out for government mandated standards for how batteries are mounted and configured. With battery swapping, taking long trips with an EV would be practical. Otherwise a houshold would have to have at least one gasoline or diesel driven car for long trips.

  3. I'm guessing that by the time govt's agree there is a need and decide on any standards, that batteries will have technologically changed so much that it's back to committee for a new set of standards...

  4. HOW ABOUT WHAT MIT IS RESEARCHING. SUCK OUT THE DEPLETED ELECTROLYTE AND REPLACE WITH FRESH CHARGED JUICE. IN A MATTER OF MINUTES YOU ARE ARE ON YOUR WAY. JUST LIKE AN OLD FASHION GAS STATION PUMP.

  5. I had always hoped some one would research this, even years before the MIT announcement. The edifference between this and a gas station is that I can get a charge for the day in my garage and return a portion of the electrolyte to the original form. I won't be making any gasoline in my garage soon though.

  6. I don't understand the call for battery swap outside of dedicated Taxi or Van fleet operations.

    How many Level 3 DC fast chargers does the cost of one battery swap station buy?

  7. "While some drivers like the idea of swappable batteries, most prefer to recharge. In fact, according to a recent survey from Accenture, 62% of consumers would rather recharge, compared to the 38% who'd like to trade dead batteries for fresh ones." Perhaps that is why they are contracting to do all the types; In the drivers garage or driveway level II, on the road Level II and a grand total of 20 battery swap stations to start up the infrastructure needs for the country.

  8. 20 swap stations for a tiny country like Denmark is a lot. When you sign up with Better Place you must agree to have their charge station in your garage. You pay their mark up at your own home. This is the only way to pay for the swap stations as they are a money loser, but required for the odd time you actually need one.

  9. First, people like to own, not lease and be captive to
    some monopolistic company like Better Place. Second,
    denmark is so small, you can go from one side to the
    other on a single charge in a Leaf. Don't see a lot of long
    trips taking place in Denmark. Third, current battery
    technology has achieved fast (45 miutes - Tesla 300 mile)and REALLY fast recharge capabilities (DBM-Energy - 6 minutes), making Better Place overpriced and obsolete.

  10. Third, current battery
    technology has achieved fast (45 miutes - Tesla 300 mile)and REALLY fast recharge capabilities (DBM-Energy - 6 minutes), making Better Place overpriced and obsolete. With the rate of change in the industry Better Place ideas may well be obsolete. The first two seem true. Though the elements cited above are not actually in commercial service at the moment. Soon perhaps?

  11. BP idea works in part because only a fool would buy a battery as part of the price they pay for a car. It would be like buying a tank filled with gas when you get your car. EV mass adoption will accelerate when Volt ( sans battery) is MSRP-25K, and leave the battery to BP

  12. Better Place's 1st and foremost advantage in NOT the battery switch stations but the..

    Upfront price of the car.

    Electric cars with a price higher than gasoline cars (Volt, Leaf) will only be bought by 1-2% of car drivers worldwide over 10 years. That's the case with the Prius, in 13 years, it captured less than 2% of the worldwide car market even though they are only $4,000 more expensive than gasoline cars. http://www.euractiv.com/en/innovation/better-place-ceo-biggest-obstacle-electric-cars-auto-industry-interview-500451

    ff

  13. In Denmark the Renault Fluence Z.E. at 205,000 Danish Kroner.. costs less than a 5-door Honda Civic at 219 900 Danish Kroner and around the price of a Jazz 1.4 Comfort i-Shift
    so its like you pay for a small bubble car and you get a big sedan.

    Here’s Honda prices in Denmark:
    http://www.honda.dk/sw7920.asp

  14. In Israel Better Place will sell the Renault Fluence Z.E. at the basic price of NIS 122,900. The Fluence will be cheaper than a Honda Civic at NIS 134,000. Even the luxury edition will be cheaper than a Honda Civic at NIS 129,900.

    Here’s Honda prices in Israel:
    (Hover mouse pointer over “Civic 4D”)

    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=iw&u=http://www.honda.co.il/&ei=gwzRTeCEDJPEsAPwhYnHCw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CEIQ7gEwAw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhonda%2Bisrael%26num%3D100%26hl%3Den%26newwindow%3D1%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3Du0w%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26prmd%3Divns

  15. Better Place will sell their electric cars at least $5,000 less than the average price of gasoline cars that are sold in the US because the cars will be sold without highly expensive battery packs (The Nissan Leaf costs ~$33,000 because the 100 mile battery costs $18,000).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf#Powertrain

  16. "Frontman" is a well chosen word IMHO. A stock promotion, again IMHO. Float the IPO and head for Brazil, LOL. Or maybe Israel. How are the extradition laws there?

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