Better Place plans to roll out a small fleet of electric taxis in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the cabs will use swappable batteries that can be replaced in about the time it takes to fill a gas tank.
The Silicon Valley startup says it will build four battery swap stations between San Francisco and San Jose during the next three years. The stations will serve an unspecified number of taxis under a demonstration program being funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the local Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our march toward accelerating the mass adoption of electric cars in the Bay Area,” Jason Wolf, vp of North America for Better Place, said in a statement. “This program will enable us to reach a broad audience and demonstrate a solution that offers drivers a more convenient option than today’s gasoline cars.”
The program expands on Better Place’s battery swap trial in Tokyo, where a fleet of e-cabs has been running around since April.
One of the big drawbacks to electric vehicles is, of course, the relatively limited range of the batteries and the time needed to recharge them. Better Place sidesteps that issue with batteries that can be replaced at automated stations. The stations, which cost about $500,000 apiece, replace a dead battery with a fresh one in minutes.
Better Place founder Shai Agassi also plans to blanket cities with charging stations and offer consumers access to them through subscriptions. Israel has signed onto the plan in a big way, and Denmark is among a handful of others interested in it.
Swappable batteries haven’t caught on among automakers, which argue it simply isn’t feasible. So far only Renault has experimented with the idea with the Fluence EV. But industry resistance hasn’t kept Better Place from charging ahead. It has been testing the technology with Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi company, since April 26. A small fleet of converted Nissan Rogues (pictured above) with swappable batteries have racked up more than 25,000 miles so far.
Better Place argues that taxis are a logical place for electric vehicles because they rack up a lot of miles — and emit a lot of CO2. Tokyo has some 60,000 taxis, and although they account for just 2 percent of all vehicles in Japan they’re responsible for 20 percent of the CO2 those vehicles produce.
“Electric taxis are the gateway to clean cities,” Better Place says.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is expected to announce the program later today. More details when we have them.
Photos: Better Place
A swappable battery being lifted into place at an automated battery swap station in Tokyo.
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/