Sometimes you see remarkable cars in corporate parking lots.

This photo, for instance, sent to us by a reader who prefers to remain anonymous, shows five Nissan compact crossovers lined up in the parking lot at the U.S. headquarters of electric-car service provider Better Place.

With both left-hand and right-hand drive, the cars are likely a mix of Nissan Rogue (the U.S. model) and Nissan Qashqai (the European version) models.

Located in the foothills of Palo Alto, California--in the heart of Silicon Valley and just a few minutes from the home base of startup electric-car maker Tesla Motors--the Better Place HQ has been the site of a great deal of research and development.

But given that the Better Place service offers the Renault Fluence ZE electric sedan to customers in its first full deployment in Israel, why would it have all those Nissans lined up?

In fact, we suspect they're test mules (as they're called) custom-fitted with removable battery packs to demonstrate the company's battery-switch station technology.

The video at the bottom, first released in the spring of 2009, shows how the battery switching works, using a vehicle identical to one of these Qashqais or Rogues.

Better Place Battery Switching Test, Yokohama Japan

Better Place Battery Switching Test, Yokohama Japan

At the time Better Place was introducing the concept of battery switch stations, French carmaker Renault was still in the process of developing the extended Fluence ZE version for Better Place from the standard gasoline and diesel Fluence sedan model.

So the Nissan Rogues, from the other half of the Nissan-Renault Alliance, stood in as test vehicles to be retrofitted with early prototypes of the switchable battery.

Four similar vehicles were also deployed in Tokyo and used as taxi cabs to see how the battery-switch technology worked for taxi service.

Now the question becomes, what will happen to the Better Place Rogues?

We don't know the cars' legal status; they're likely licensed as manufacturer development vehicles, and so couldn't be sold to the general public because they've been significantly modified from their original state.

Nissan electric taxi leaving Better Place battery switching station, Tokyo, April 2010

Nissan electric taxi leaving Better Place battery switching station, Tokyo, April 2010

They may not even have been based on U.S. models of the crossover, but on the European Qashqai version instead--meaning that they're completely uncertified for U.S. sale.

While they're pretty obviously zero-emission vehicles, the updates are such that even U.S. models would likely have to be recertified as roadworthy and compliant with all safety regulations, given the major changes to their fundamental body structure.

So we're throwing it out there: Assuming that Better Place can't sell these electric Nissan Rogues and Qashqais, what should the company do with them before it has to crush them?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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