Transport Theory

How to give EVs unlimited range

How to give EVs unlimited range

Posting in Energy

Denmark's plan for a nationwide electric battery-switching infrastructure would allow drivers to exchange depleted batteries for fully charged ones at stations throughout the country.

Few deny the environmental benefits of zero emissions vehicles - but one of the biggest concerns keeping the general public from investing in electric cars is the 'chicken or the egg' problem: there's no point in buying an EV until widespread charging infrastructure is in place so you and your new EV don't wind up out of juice on the side of a highway. Yet that infrastructure is unlikely to be implemented unless the market senses a significant demand for it.

Enter Better Place, a California-based company that specializes in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Better Place has teamed up with Renault to provide a model for EV charging infrastructure that may make the prospect of owning an EV much more appealing.

Ahead of its commercial launch a few months from now, Better Place presented on Wednesday its first Battery Switch station in Gladsaxe, Denmark. The station will use the company's battery-switching technology together with the new Renault Fluence Z.E., to give drivers unlimited driving range. Check out the video below to see how the system works:

A Renault Fluence driver and Better Place subscriber need only drive up to the switching station, swipe her membership card, and the fully automated process does the rest. Much like a car wash, the driver may stay in the vehicle, while a robotic arm exchanges the depleted battery for a fully charged one. Once the process, which takes only 2 minutes, is complete, the driver can get back on the road.

The station in Gladsaxe is the first of 20 such Battery Switch Stations to be set up across Denmark in the next nine months. Denmark's nationwide network of charging infrastructure, which will launch later this year, is being developed through a partnership between Better Place, DONG Energy (a European energy group), and more than 45 municipalities.

"The Better Place solution offers a great driving experience, improves air quality and increases the share of renewable energy in the electric grid – all of this at a more affordable cost of ownership than comparable conventional cars," said Johnny Hansen, CEO of Better Place Denmark. “I am convinced that with the Battery Switch model we have overcome the last barrier to the electric car's commercial breakthrough: range, and based on the interest we have received so far, I expect this to be the top selling car in Denmark in just a few years.”

Last year, Better Place implemented a battery-switching system on Tokyo taxis (see video):

But Denmark's planned stations, as well as a similar system to launch in Israel by the end of 2011, represent the first nationwide battery-switching infrastructure projects.

The initial areas of implementation are all much smaller than the U.S., and thus far the company's battery-switching technology is only compatible with the Renault Fluence Z.E. and the Nissan Rogue SUV. But if the initiative proves successful, it shouldn't be long before we start to see similar charging infrastructure in this country.

Photo: Better Place

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure