Better Place Unveils First Automated Battery Switch For Japan EV Study

May 16, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

Better Place states that it has achieved a milestone in accelerating the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles by demonstrating what it claims is the world’s first battery switch technology along with electric car charging spots. Better Place was the only foreign company invited by the Japanese Ministry of Environment to demonstrate its switch technology, which the company states provides a viable solution to make electric vehicles a reality by offering drivers virtually unlimited range.

Better Place showcased its battery switch platform today using a modified NISSAN electric crossover SUV to demonstrate how to switch a depleted battery for a fully charged one. The company also demonstrated its commitment to open network standards by charging a fixed battery, electric car, via one of four Better Place charge spots installed at the demonstration site. Recharging of the vehicle batteries is made possible by Sharp Corp. photovoltaic solar panels, creating what is described as a truly zero emission solution.

"Today marks a major milestone for the automotive industry as well as for Better Place," said Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place. "For nearly a century, the automotive industry has been inextricably tied to oil. Today, we’re demonstrating a new path forward where the future of transportation and energy is driven by our desire for a clean planet and a robust economic recovery fueled by investments in clean technology, and one in which the well-being of the automotive industry is intrinsically coupled with the well-being of the environment."

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is partnering with Better Place in Israel to enable zero-emissions mobility throughout the country by 2011. The realization of zero-emissions mobility in Israel will require the deployment of battery switch stations as well as a steady and reliable supply of vehicles adapted to accept the switchable-battery layout required by the Better Place business model. The project and the teams have been working closely together for the past two years and are excited about seeing the manifestation of their efforts in this demonstration of the battery switch platform.

Better Place is committed to delivering a complete solution to drivers that includes in-car services, management systems and multiple ways for drivers to recharge their electric car including networks of charge spots and battery switch stations powered by renewable energy. The infrastructure offers drivers the same convenience to "top off" as they enjoy today with gasoline or petrol stations, with charge spots installed where you live, work, and shop, while battery switch stations are deployed for the exceptionally long drives.

"Japan has always been at the forefront of automotive engineering and design and maintains a strong sense of environmentalism," said Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan and Head of Business Development for Asia Pacific. "The launch of Japan’s electric vehicle study is an important milestone in achieving a zero-emission transportation society, and our successful demonstration of charging vehicles with both fixed and switchable batteries is an important contribution towards moving the entire industry forward."

According to the company, the automated switch process, which takes about a minute, is faster than filling a tank with gasoline, providing a cleaner, more convenient experience for drivers. The technology is said to safely and quickly removes a depleted battery and transfers a fully charged battery into the vehicle. The process is seamless and automated, and the driver remains in the vehicle the entire time.

The system works with two robotic battery shuttles on an automated track system. One battery shuttle holds the fully charged battery, which will be inserted into the vehicle, while the other shuttle simply removes the depleted battery from the vehicle. At the end of the process, the track system returns the removed battery to a storage bay for recharging and preparation for use in another electric vehicle. The battery shuttles are designed to work with a wide variety of battery enclosure sizes and shapes for universal application to a range of electric vehicles.

The switch technology will be further developed into production for the commercial switch stations, which will be deployed in Better Place markets around the world.