Video Shares Better Place Electric Car Battery Swap Experience

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Less than a month ago, electric car infrastructure firm and battery swap specialist Better Place started deliveries of all-electric Renault Fluence Z.E. cars to customers in Israel. 

In the past, Better Place has explained the basics of how its rapid battery swap stations work, but what’s it really like to drive into a rapid battery swap station and have your depleted battery replaced with a fully charged one in under 5 minutes? 

That’s the question asked by a British ex-pat blogger Brian London, who recently took a Renault Fluence Z.E. to his local Israeli battery swap station to see, as he put it, “What is it like having a battery inserted where the sun doesn’t shine?”

While the battery swap stations aren’t due to officially open to the public until June, London was allowed to take one of Better Place’s test cars through the station to experience the battery swap process first hand. 

Luckily for us, he took a camera with him too.

Likening the experience to driving through a fully automatic car wash, London said once the car was inside the battery swap station, it was manipulated on a set of rollers until it was located in exactly the right spot for the battery swap to take place. 

better place battery switch station 005

better place battery switch station 005

Enlarge Photo

“Once you’re being pulled through the process you can feel the car being jostled a little to line it up and then it physically lifts a few centimeters,” wrote London. “Sensors make sure nobody opens a door and the whole process will stop if that happens.”

London notes that there is very little noise during the process, with only a little vibration as the battery pack is removed and a new one inserted, while an in-car display details exactly what’s happening to the car as its battery is swapped out. 

In total, the battery swap process is reported as taking “exactly 5 minutes”, making it much quicker than any other full recharge method currently on offer. 

But with the battery swap stations still in testing phase, Israeli Better Place customers will have to wait a little longer before they can test the system for themselves. 

Should the U.S. use Better Place style battery swapping stations? Would you like to recharge your car that quickly, or do you charge away from home so infrequently that waiting for a 30 minute charge in cars like the 2012 Mitsubishi i and 2012 Nissan Leaf isn’t a big deal? 

Let us know the he Comments below. 


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Comments (25)
  1. The battery swap would be good to have around in case you are further from a charging station than you would like to be, but waiting 30 minutes for the Leaf to charge is no big deal. I can find a lot of things to do for 30 minutes.

  2. The 440 volt 30 minute rapid charge is a good idea for the Nissan Leaf and would solve many of the range issues if at least one was located in most cities. However using the Leaf to go cross country with its limited range of 75 miles at freeway speeds of 70-75mph would be impractical. Drive 1 hour Charge 1/2 hour. A cross country roadtrip would be broken up so badly in a Nissan leaf that it would take forever to travel across the USA. Now the Tesla Model S with 300 mile range would allow 4 hours of driving at 75 mph and 45 minutes with a 440 volt charger would work for most people. The Leaf would have to stop and charge 4 times (4 x 0.5Hr = 2 hours longer) to go the same distance that the Tesla Model S 300 mile range would do on a charge.

  3. One thing I wonder about with battery swapping is will companies like Better Place go out of buisness once charging times are shorted? When charging is cut down to less then an hour for example, you could have lunch and by the time your finished your car will be charged. And I have two other concerns, 1 with the complexity of the machinery needed to swap, could something go wrong while swapping and damage your car? And 2 how reliable is the swapping equipment, how often are you going to pull up only to find that the station has broken down? I have a funny example, when Universal Studios opened in Orlando the Jaws ride didn't open for like 2 years, because of mechanical issues the ride broke down often, Better Place could face shut dows too.

  4. Sorry typo, Better Place could face shut downs too.

    And I'd like to add that in the video there was a small issue. They did say there was a screen that wasn't working, which appeared to confuse the driver as to when he should start the car. Yes it's a small issue, but it wasn't a major component, what if it had been?

  5. It is my video and I was driving. The swap stations are not operational and when I got there they had to start it up for me. We should have waited a little longer first time as they had to start up the in car system too and that was only available on second run.

    I also got a look inside the station and was very pleased to see very standard and highly normal industrial equipment. I think its very common off the shelf stuff which means it's had years of development. Sure the configurations are new but inside there it's pretty straightforward. I also know they could push the speeds if they wanted to.

    The basic point is that most users won't swap very often: only if they travel outside of their range in a single day!

  6. Hi Brian, thanks for clearing that up. Still I think a simple level 3 charge makes more sense. Not that battery swapping is a bad idea, I just don't see it as being a long term solution.

  7. I'm going to write something, probably at PJ Media about the BP business model. Its much more like AT&T than Motorola or like Texaco vs Chevvy. That's the idea: the money is in the subscription. The Battery swap stations and idea are just what they need now to get over range problems. If fast charge comes up, they'll use it and it will be included in my subscription.

    The bottom line: I'm pre-paying for 4 years of driving at a rate I think is excellent and protected against energy price fluctuation and the largest part of my car (by value) I only rent so deprecation and wear and tear of that asset isn't my problem!

  8. I thought I heard that Nissan was working on a fast charger that would charge the battery from empty in 10 minutes. When that becomes available, it would make battery swapping stations obsolete I would think.

  9. When talking about fast-charging, almost everyone overlooks the problems with safe delivery of large amounts of power.

    To charge the Nissan Leaf's 24 kWh battery from empty to full in 10 minutes would require something like a 440V / 600 amp charger - how many of those could you have in a neighborhood?

  10. I've wondered exactly the same thing: this is huge power, needs very chunky cables and is way beyond anything consumers have used up to now.

  11. Well doctor you might be correct; however, currently quick charging without the rapid cooling system used in Better Place switching stations as they recharge the recently removed batteries, will wreak havoc with the shelf life and efficiency of batteries experiencing frequent and rapid re-charging. That is what is so darn good about battery switching, because it is owned and maintained by Better Place you can guarantee that they will not be re-installing 80% efficient batteries, you'll have a fresh 100% battery every time you switch!

  12. Great idea, but with a single lane this will have a scale problem as more people adopt the technology. Wonder how many cars they can "swap" and rapid charge per day

  13. The idea is not to sell the car to people who need to swap every day. Included in the price of the car is a home charge station installed at the expense of BP and with all electricity paid for by BP. Most of the time I won't switch batteries as I drive less than 40km per day.

  14. I would love to have battery swapping, but the problem is that I think it will end up costing too much.

  15. BP or companies like it will be around forever. this is the model that Big Oil will eventually move there is is several reasons why but the biggest reason is BP brings a much larger market to EVs. right now the biggest sticking point is the cost of an EV. BP takes that lump sum cost snd spreads it out in monthly payments.

    for more;

  16. Spot on David. You get Better Place exactly! Very few have understood their business model (Israeli business magazine Globes just published something that shows they get it). I think BP are doing something completely novel too.

  17. a subscription service allows someone who could not afford more than a $15,000 car the chance to drive EV since they only buy the glider and lease the battery. BP carries all the risk, maintenance, longevity, etc. you simply pay a monthly charge based on your expected need.

  18. Yes the $15k to $20k battery isn't mine! I don't care about it's life because I can get a new one every day if I really want. I don't care what happens to it after it's only delivering 80% charge (but Better Place will own hundreds like that so they can better manage their second and third lives).

    That's the killer part of the deal: and the fact that I can charge without thinking at any Better Place charge point in Israel (and nobody else is building charge points).

  19. Right On Brian! i talk with people every day on the Leaf Owners Group and they dont understand that 80 of the World cannot afford to buy Electric because of the cost of the batteries. BP solves that making an EV a viable possibility for nearly everyone. Lets face it; monthly payments people understand, whether its credit cards, cellphones or just another type of car payment, they can manage that!

  20. Even better than just the battery, Better Place sell you all the electricity and unlimited swaps and at the moment they are fixing that price for 3 or 4 years. To me that's a phenomenal deal because only in the weeks since I placed my order fuel has gone from ₪7.23 to ₪7.60. That's 5% up. It will only keep on up for the foreseeable future.

    The real beauty is in the infrastructure: breakdown service, anti-theft sat tracking (required by most insurance companies here in Israel for a car worth anything much), information service on 24 hr call (asking where’s my nearest charge point and they will remotely program your GPS to go there!). It’s a compelling package.

  21. The price of batteries is only a problem right now, with currently available EVs. The cost is going down so it's only a matter of time. And that's my only concern, battery swapping is a good idea given current battery technology, but what happens when the next gen batteries appear that charge in 10 minutes and go 400 miles on a charge for example? And please, don't misunderstand me I'm not bashing Better Place I'm simply looking at what will happen to Better Place when battery technology takes it's next step forward by asking these questions.

  22. I think the BP model adapts nicely for that. And it can educate quite a few people that what they mostly need is less than 100km a day and an overnight charge. Job done. If they have the extra option (be it roadside fast charges, battery swaps, whatever) for the occasional longer road trips, great!

    At least someone will have started making a serious attempt to dethrone Jihad Oil (as I call it).


  24. The answer is really really simple!

    As batteries get cheaper.. Better Place cars & monthly bill will get cheaper too!

    As batteries get longer range .. Better Place cars will get longer range too!

    Better Place will simply integrate any new technology into their network.

    But my estimation is that Better Place will favor cheaper cars and cheaper monthly bill vs range, since nationwide battery swap stations give unlimited range vs 400 miles and a 3 minute battery swap is still faster than 10 minute fast charging.

    Also cheaper, cheaper means mass influx of new customers for Better Place.


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