We’ve written before about California start-up Better Place’s plan to build a network of battery swapping stations and standardized EVs, including its scheduled $1 billion project in the San Francisco Bay Area. As of January 2010, Better Place is taking on the Tokyo taxicab. Partnering with the cities’ largest taxi company, Niho Kotsu, they will create the first all-electric fleet in the world, complete with a battery swapping station in the Roppongi Hills.
Founder Shai Agassi’s plan is to supply cheaper EVs and generate profit by selling power-up time much like cell-phone companies sell minutes (you can even pick your plan; unlimited mileage, monthly allowances, or pay-as-you-go). Battery stations will then allow drivers to swap out their standardized, used batteries for fully-charged ones in under 5 minutes. It’s like going to the gas station without the guilt — especially if Better Place employs renewable energy and becomes part of a smart-grid system.
Testing out this system in the high volume Tokyo taxi market is an important step in Better Place’s long-term vision, as Earth2Tech’s Katie Fehrenbacher explains:
First off, Tokyo is often the purveyor of “cool” and advanced technology, and services and products that gain acceptance in Toyko often find their way to other parts of the world. The city has become a good test bed for technology because it’s filled with a lot of people, not much space, a lot of disposable income, and an unusually high level of attention to electronics and gadgets. While the Better Place Tokyo taxi deal will have to impress the taxi owners first, if it’s successful, it could mean a more consumer-targeted push in Tokyo in the future.
The other benefit of this deal is that Better Place gets to test out its system in a fleet. Tokyo taxis will give the Better Place cars, batteries and battery swap stations a run for their money — far more than the average car user would. That will enable Better Place to test the battery range, the IT networks and the location of the battery swap station in a much faster manner."
As they continue to develop simultaneous projects in the U.S., Australia, Israel, Ontario and Denmark, we look forward to seeing how Better Place’s strategy catches on.
CC photo credit
How vulnerable to rare earth depletion are these batteries? I'm a fan of this as a system, but I'm hoping they can find new materials to build the batteries from that don't involve any rare earths because resource nationalism already seems to be kicking in, as recent moves from China seem to indicate.
Because posting here seems link sensitive (because of spam cocerns) just google "as hybrid cars gobble rare materials".