We all know that one of the biggest challenges facing electric cars is the fact that recharging a battery pack is orders of magnitude slower than filling a gasoline car’s fuel tank. 

As battery packs have become more advanced, we’ve seen an increased use of rapid charging technologies, such as those found in the 2011 Nissan Leaf - but these are hardly quick when compared to a five minute gasoline refill. 

If you’re fan of electric cars you’ll probably already know about Better Place. Funded by venture capital, the company came up with another way of facilitating fast refueling which allowed electric cars to exchange a depleted battery pack for a fully charged one in a purpose-built and fully automated battery swapping station. 

With public swap stations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East now in operation, Better Place seems to have got the skill of battery swapping down to a fine art. 

Electric Car Battery Swapping- Chinese Style

Electric Car Battery Swapping- Chinese Style

But as with many things in life, the Chinese appear to have their own very special take on the Better Place idea of exchanging a depleted battery for a fully charged one. 

And it isn’t perhaps as safety conscious as the fully automated system Better Place has perfected. Gone are the feet and feet of motorized track, the robotic arms and drive-on ramps and in their place a few strong men with a few wrenches and crowbars. 

How do we know? A recent video by Wall Street Daily, following an electric taxi driver in Hangzhou, Zhejiang as he went about his daily work. 

One of a fleet of 29 vehicles in the city, Wall Street Daily reported that its driver could drive around 40 miles before a battery swap was required showing the driver stop off at one of the three battery swapping stations to replenish his car’s charge. 

Rather than drive up onto an automated ramp, the video shows the driver watch as a team of men clamber into his vehicle, manually lifting long, squeaking battery boxes out of his vehicle before replacing them with freshly charged ones. The batteries are transpoted on manual carts, held to prevent them from falling off. 

Is it safe? Most certainly not for the health of the guys doing the lifting, who proclaim “This is heavy” during the video.

Electric Car Battery Swapping- Chinese Style

Electric Car Battery Swapping- Chinese Style

But we’re unconvinced such a backyard way of switching batteries is any good for the passengers and driver either. 

Earlier this year, an identical taxi cab suddenly burst into flames in the city, prompting officials to pull the remaining 29 cars off the roads for nearly two months. 

Apart from giving electric cars worldwide a bad name, the incident sent reverberations around the electric car industry, reminding everyone that electric car batteries can be just as combustible as gasoline when treated inappropriately.

We have no way of assessing if what we see in this video is indicative of normality in the fledgling chinese electric car industry. But if it is, Chinese electric autos may have a long way to go before they are ready for primetime. 

[Wall Street Daily (video in link)]