Electric car battery swapping stations became reality yesterday as Better Place started delivering all-electric Renault Fluence Z.E. cars to customers in Israel. 

Unlike regular electric cars, Renault was commissioned to build the Fluence Z.E. with a battery pack that could be removed by automated machinery and replaced with a freshly-charged one in a few minutes. 

In fact, the battery swapping process is so fast that switching battery packs is quicker than filling up a gasoline car at the gas station. 

Not only does the process eliminate the need to plug an electric car in, but it also gives electric cars unlimited range, provided battery swapping stations are available.

But providing a battery swap station in every town is a costly business: each Better Place swap station costs around $500,000 to build. 

2012 Renault Fluence Z.E.

2012 Renault Fluence Z.E.

That’s more than 20 times the cost of installing a basic rapid DC charging station, and several hundred times more expensive than installing a level 2 charging station. 

But Better Place executive Shai Agassi isn’t interested in immediate costs. For him, the battery swap stations represent a future where electric cars can be treated as equals with gasoline cars, offering unlimited range, simple refueling and an end to range anxiety. 

It sounds great, but there’s a little catch: cost.

In order to take part, customers of Better Place have to purchase a 2012 Renault Fluence Z.E. from Renault, without a battery pack. 

Then then have to enter a monthly contract with Better Place to cover battery leasing and use of the swap stations. 

2012 Renault Fluence Z.E.

2012 Renault Fluence Z.E.

In Denmark -- which will soon follow Israel with deliveries of Better Place cars in a few weeks’ time -- customers will be paying between $270 and $517 per month to cover battery leasing, mileage, charging, and swap-station costs.

And that’s on top of buying -- or leasing -- the actual car. 

While Better Place is likely to gain customers in the corporate and fleet car market, we’re still unsure if mainstream car buyers will be willing to stump up the extra cash every month just for the facility of driving more than 100 miles without having to worry about recharging. 

What do you think? Let us know in the Comments below. 


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