Better Place Rolls Out Robot Battery Replacer

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Better Place, an outfit that is aiming to make eclectic vehicles ubiquitous and practical, has just shown a prototype of what amounts to the EV version of a filling station. Since fully recharging batteries can be an hours long process, Better Place has decided that a better idea is simply to swap out the drained batteries with full ones, and they’re doing it with robots.

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Better Place showed off its new gizmo at an electric vehicle exhibit in Yokohama, Japan yesterday. Dubbed an “automated battery switch system” it is designed to make long distance travel by EV a practical reality for customers. Since the automated battery switch can replace an exhausted EV battery with a fully charged one in just a few minutes, it would allow EV drivers to take on long distance trips without actually recharging en route. “The process is quicker, cleaner and easier than filling a gas tank,” says Better Place, and the driver doesn’t even have to leave the vehicle.

Essentially, how it works is sort of like an automated car wash. The driver pulls their EV over a pad, similar in appearance to the concrete pad at a filling station, but underneath, there’s a whole host of machinery and scissor lifts and what not. From under ground, automated machinery removes the batter pack from the car you just drove in, lowers it underground, slides a new, freshly charged battery pack onto the lift, raises it, and installs it into your car, and you’re ready to go and on your way.

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The whole process takes “only a few minutes”, according to better place (no telling how few that actually is), and they also say it’s about as long as it takes to fill up a car with gas at a filling station. There are a few downsides however.

For starters, the whole mechanism is huge, about the volume of a travel trailer. And all that hugeness must be installed underground, meaning setting up this EV version of a filling station is going to require some construction kinks that gas filling stations don’t face.

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Also, the Better Place automated battery switch system ain’t exactly cheap at $500,000 a copy. So, if you want to run the numbers as having these deployed throughout the country, multiply the number of installs by half a million, and you can see that this might be sort of pricey.

But, at least it’s a start in the direction we should heading.

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Photos: Better Place

About The Author

Tony Borroz grew up in a sportscar oriented family, but sadly, it was British cars. His knuckles still show the marks of slipped Whitworth sockets, strains to reach upper rear shock bushings on Triumphs, and slight burn marks from dealing with Lucas Electric "systems." He has written for a variety of car magazines and websites, Automoblog chief among them. Tony has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He currently lives in a secure, undisclosed location in the American southwestern desert.

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