Fast Charging Vs Battery Switching: Better Place Customer Compares Page 2

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better place battery switch station 014

better place battery switch station 014

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If their customers use their car's integrated GPS system, Better Place will know which cars are heading for a switch station--and what their car's state of charge is.

The company can contact owners and suggest they divert to another station if any station is out of service or too busy. The layout of 40 stations in Israel has been devised, the company says, to give two or more options for most journeys.


Keeping a fast-charging station open and working should be easy, but anecdotal evidence suggests this isn't always so. Access to unattended stations can also be blocked by gasoline car owners who park in the space required for an electric car to charge.

The business of providing fast chargers for payment or subscription is in its infancy: billing systems and charging mechanisms vary widely, and no leader has yet emerged in any market. It's debatable whether any business models for DC fast charging will support onsite 24-hour attendants, but it seems unlikely.

Israel's battery switch stations are currently undergoing stress testing. Each one will be opened to paying customers when it has completed 1000 switches with a maximum of only one failure.

Initially, each Better Place switch station will be staffed, though they are designed to be unmanned and remotely monitored. We won't know how reliable that system is until it's in full public use by thousands of Better Place users.

Battery Ownership issues

The current standards for fast charging seem robust enough that owners can be confident any given charger won't damage their battery.

Within a battery switching network, there is no way for someone to own a battery. All batteries must be owned by the network and leased to owners.

Renault Fluence ZE electric car belonging to Better Place user David Rose [photo: David Rose]

Renault Fluence ZE electric car belonging to Better Place user David Rose [photo: David Rose]

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Battery and Charging Standardization

Manufacturers have a patchy record on agreeing to charging standards: Tesla is going in its own direction for its SuperCharger fast-charging network (and coupler), while Nissan and Mitsubishi have settled on the CHAdeMO standard.

In North America, a new standard that's a superset of the J-1772 Level 2 standard is now being finalized. And just last week a European consortium including Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Ford, GM, Porsche and VW announced support for the SAE standard with a slightly different plug and socket.

Thus far, Better Place has only convinced Renault to manufacture a single model of electric car that's capable of battery swapping. The batteries that its charging stations can handle, however, do not need to be identical in size and shape.

Fragmentation of swappable battery types, though, would make it much harder for switch stations to ensure they have a fully charged pack of the correct type for multiple vehicles.

Grid Impact

People won't often need fast, mid journey recharging at night. That means wide uptake of fast charging would not use surplus overnight electricity. Fast charging will always place a non-deferrable load on the local grid

Switch stations do not need to recharge each battery as soon as it comes in. They are also under central control and can avoid charging at peak times. In general they will be able to recharge batteries mostly off peak.

Brian Thomas ("Brian of London") emigrated from the U.K. to Israel in 2009. He has placed an order for and will soon own a Renault Fluence ZE sold through Better Place. He owns and operates his own import company in Israel with more than 15 staff. He regularly blogs at Israellycool about life in Israel, technology and business topics.


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Comments (13)
  1. I just don't see battery swapping as a long term solution. Charging is getting faster every year, however the main reason I think it won't catch on is the obvious one: Can you imagine every new electric model from every manufacturer agreeing on a single sized battery pack. Size size, same dimensions, some voltage?

    I think it's about as likely as my cat learning to speak and write Latin. And trust me, I've tried teaching her the basics but she keeps dropping the pen.

  2. As small as the distances between points of interest in Israel , one wonders why they worry about range at all. As the size of battery packs grows larger, recharge times are less important - the Tesla Model S with a its 320 mile range is a case in point - it can recharge in around one hour, which wouldn't impede the long distance traveler in the slightest. I can't imagine even the shotest ranged Tesla (170 miles) as having any problems in Israel (or Hawaii, etc.). The future for Better Place seems bleak - any sharp reduction in battery prices destroys their raison d'etre. Any improvements in recharge speeds (they are already pretty fast) would also doom their technology. They
    are also locked in to an EV architecture that is obsolete

  3. Kent, it is their pricing strategy that may attract buyers. The ability to buy the vehicle for less than $20K, and lease batteries per month is very attractive compared to spending $35K up front.

  4. The car may be less than $20k but then you have to add monthly rent, you don't have to pay rent on a Leaf unless you lease it. But what happens to Better Place when a 200 mile plus range electric car comes out priced around $20k? And with gasoline being slowly fazed out most people are going to be able to wait until the bettery cheaper electric car comes out anyway.

  5. I'd still have to go with charging over swapping, electric cars are supposed to be easier to own and swapping takes some of that ease away. The complex mechanics of the swapping station are not always going to work as planned, and your mobility is enslaved by a contract and billing. Your still going to be charging when your at home so your paying to recharge and rent the battery. Going electric was supposed to be easier with low maintenance and simple charging, swapping ads rental fees and after a few thousand swaps you local station will have to shutdown once and a while for maintenance or you'll find out what a bad swap is like

  6. I love that car in the main picture - nissan should be making an EV that looks like that.

  7. I like the Better Place model, because of the advantages for EV owners. Hopefully the real world demonstration in Israel proves that this model is working for the customers and for Better Place and that it will save money for the country as a whole.
    To me following arguments count for Better Place
    - Separation of ownership between car and battery will speed up adoption by customers because EVs get affordable to more customers
    - Low risk due to not owning the battery which may break down and will be rapidly loose value when new battery technology becomes available. In case of defect the "repair" will be really quick. No need to put the car into a garage for some days to replace fixed battery.
    - Central energy management with the utilities.

  8. Battery swapping will only work if the drivers only pay for the energy used and the time it "borrowed" battery... So, if the battery swap station treat the full charged battery similar to a full Butane tank, then it will make a lot more sense. The EVs would be also cheaper since the battery does NOT come with it.

  9. The Better Place model totally disconnects the subscriber from the electricity cost. It's not helpful to think in terms of how much the electrons alone are costing. You're buying the whole package: $15,000 worth of leased battery for your use, unlimited switches and all the electrons you need to cover a pre-determined distance.

    There are other benefits but those are the main points. The price of the car includes a mandatory installation of a home charging spot and for high mileages a work one as well.

  10. It is the same problem as unlimited data plans -- if you don't actually use the battery switching much (only occasional long trips), then you are paying more in your subscription fees for the benefit of others. Over time, only heavy users will gravitate to this solution, which means the costs to the operator have to go up (more electricity and more swapping facilities to cover heavy use), which then have to get passed on to the users.

    So, if you won't often need long-range travel, you would be better off with a traditional EV and just renting a car when you need it.

  11. Correct: I do fall into the category who definitely needs occasional swaps. At least 1 per month and, probably, because of the "unlimited" data plan nature of pre-paying, I'll drive more now.

    One trip to Haifa or Jerusalem a month is a minimum. Jerusalem is (apparently) possible without a swap, but a swap means I can drive up the hill at 100kmh and not care. Haifa is 100KM each way for me so not possible without a slow charge for a few hours in Haifa.

    The problem in Israel is that the mere existence of Better Place is blocking anyone else from bringing a "conventional" EV. It's not my belief that the prohibition on charging from domestic electricity is the major problem, more inertia on the part of the 6 cartel like local car importers.

  12. Why would anybody prefer a 30 minute charge over a five minute swap? What are you supposed to do when your car is charged after 30 minutes and the main course has just arrived? Get up and move the car? And what if your at the movies, a sporting event or concert?

  13. For the EV driver, like me, who mostly drives within the range of his EV and only occasionally needs to take a longer trip, the easiest solution is just to rent a gasoline car for the long trips. That is much cheaper than being part of a subscription for a fast charging or battery swapping service.

    My guess is that the only way we'll see a large number of fast chargers any time soon, is for the DOE to pay for them. If Obama is serious about 1 million EVs in 2020, paying for EV infrastructure is essential.

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