Better Place plugs in battery swapping station

Electric transportation company Better Place unveils its robot-automated car battery swapping station as part of an electric vehicle test program in Japan.

Better Place on Tuesday showed off an automated electric vehicle battery-swapping station which takes about one minute to slip in a fresh battery.

The station in Yokohama, Japan is part of a government-sponsored test around electric vehicles. The vehicles being tested are modified Nissan SUVs that run entirely on batteries.

Fill 'er up: Better Place's electric vehicle swapping station being tested in Japan. Better Place

The switching stations use robotic battery "shuttles" on a track system that remove a depleted battery for recharging and insert a fresh battery.

As the batteries are on the bottom of the car, a driver goes up a ramp and stays in the car during the battery exchange. The battery shuttles are designed to work with a variety of different battery sizes

At this site in Japan, the batteries are charged from a large solar photovoltaic array, making it zero-emissions driving, according to Better Place.

Better Place's business model is to sell customer a subscription service to charge batteries, which are owned by Better Place. Customers get access to charging stations at home and in public places as well as battery-swapping stations for longer rides.

The anticipated range from the electric cars--Better Place has signed on Renault-Nissan as a provider--will be about 100 miles. The company is setting up a network of charging stations in Israel and has agreements with other locations, such as Denmark, San Francisco, and Australia.

In an interview last month , Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi said that the company plans to test its components, such as battery-changing and car-charging stations, this year in anticipation of a market roll-out in 2011.


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