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.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

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.