Agassi's Better Place
envisions a better world with a radically different infrastructure
to "fuel" electric cars. A subscription model gets you the battery,
plus a charging port for your home plus free access to any number of
battery-swapping stations in your area, where, in just five minutes,
your depleted lithium ion battery gets yanked out by a robot and
replaced by a fully charged battery.
Better Place tries to address
the different human experience with easy comparisons. "Battery
swap?" Just like filling your gas tank only this is automated. But
the fact of the matter is that the infrastructure has to be built. Not just the cool Jetsons-era swapping stations, but the cars
themselves, made by Renault.
But electric vehicles, while cool and hip, are new to the human
experience when it comes to their infrastructure. Those on the road
today are sensitive to the notion and they're still struggling.
What's not to like about a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt that can
plug into any outlet? Plenty, which is why their sales are lousy.
120V charge takes forever, and there are few if any $15,000-a-pop
fast charging stations in most communities. General Motors engineers
were so sensitive to the infrastructure situation that they built a
gas-powered backup engine to take those range (and use-case) worries
off the table.
As an innovation society, we can't begrudge the visionaries, ever.
They make us question our old, rusty assumptions; they drag us into
the future. But there is a breathtaking luminance that a stint on
TED Talks can bring to visionaries and their ideas--really, a life
of their own. We, with stars in our eyes, are swept up by the
often-Utopian subtexts of great technological ideas (cue lovely
slides of Alpine meadows and children running through verdant
We can forget that the most successful visions, the ones that really
transform society, don't boil the ocean. They sail on it.
Truth is, there's more to it than that. I don't even know any details of the ouster itself, but the idea was going to be a tough sell to any but the most ardent battery zealots.
Swapping batteries, no matter how much one pretends otherwise, is way more cumbersome and requires a whole lot more effort than pumping a few gallong of gasoline or diesel. You are handling huge, heavy, bulky, items, and you have to do so perhaps 3-5 times as often as anyone needs to stop for gasoline. And that's only true if the batteries are truly enormous, like even bigger that what is in a Chevy Volt.
So, I'm not surprised the idea isn't a slam dunk, in the real world.
Swapping the batteries is a silly idea...batteries in an electric car are the one component which depreciates the most and adds the most cost to the car.
A system that lets you just leave your worn out $10,000 battery at the gas station and driving away with a brand new one is ridiculous.
This is a simple failure of economics and psychology. We like to "own" our cars. Companies like to sell us stuff and let us own the problems too. This new business model fails on both counts.
Maybe it could work at Disney world, on a golf course, or some simple scenario like that...where the lifetime of the transaction is measured in days (not years) and the maximum distance travelled is 100km or less.
Agreed, and I just posted a similar comment on the Tesla supercharger story.
Nobody is going to replace their newer, less worn-out batteries with older ones at the charging station, and the economics won't justify stocking the charging station with only brand-new batteries -- the used ones will still need to be installed in other EVs somewhere.
There is also the auto mechanic staffing & labor cost issue. Swapping out batteries in an EV isn't quite the same as replacing your standard lead acid battery in the parking lot of the auto parts store!
Umm there recharable helloow
And since your just renting/leasing the battery pack its not an issue if you get a less than perfect pack, just go back and have it replaced.
QOS and bad packs need to be romoved from the stream to provide positive experences on average.
I don't think swapping batteries is a silly idea. In fact, it is a great idea. Better place's strategy is just not cost effective.
Battery swapping prevents car owners from having to own one of the most expensive parts of an electric vehicle. In addition, the unused batteries can be used for grid stabilization. The batteries can be charged during off peak hours and could potentially supply power to the grid during peaks. In other words, the batteries can be an asset to power companies.
In China, a company called Kandi Technologies (NASDAQ: KNDI) has partnered with State Grid, China's largest power company. They are pushing this concept through their QBX platform or quick exchange. They have implemented an automatic battery swapping solution that is cost effective, unlike Better Place's system. Kandi recently announced that 5000 of their EV's will be delivered by year end. This program is being subsidized by all levels of the Chinese government and is just the beginning in China. China wants to end its reliance on foreign oil and is actually beginning to take steps towards that goal.
Would this solution work in the states? I don't know. Many Chinese have never owned a car and thus are not deterred by the limited range of EVs. In addition, they typically live close to where they work. Here in the states that is not necessarily true.
The only way I think it could work is to lease the vehicles based on distance traveled and your choice of car. This way the utilities, the battery makers, the car makers, and the charging infrastructure guys could sit down and figure out the economic model. People already lease cars and buy gas. I think once they all sit down and figure out the numbers; they could figure out how to offer a fixed lease cost to drive a distance, depending on the car you want. Remember GM's fuel cell auto drive platform? You keep the platform, but you can change out the chassis' over time. The model is not too dissimilar for EVs with battery change outs, except the various parties are responsible for their respective commitments. As long as they are comfortable with their respective confidence to manage their technology/finance risks over a 15-25 year period, then this dispersed risk model makes sense.
A better idea is to have smaller modular battery packs that can be installed by the owner.
have both permanent battery storage and replaceable storage modules for meduim and long range extension without waiting.
Also the idea of a towable extender battery or ICe or both