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World’s first battery swap station opens

On trial: Three Nissan Dualis taxis have been converted to electricity in Tokyo to test Better Place's quick-swap battery technology.

Better Place reaches a milestone with a switchable-battery taxi trial in Tokyo

General News logo27 Apr 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in TOKYO

BETTER Place has opened what it calls the world’s first switchable-battery electric taxi station in Tokyo where the company predicts all taxis in the Japanese metropolis will be electric-powered by 2022.

The temporary recharge and battery switch facility in Tokyo’s busy Roppongi district is being tested in a 90-day trial as the prelude to Better Place’s complete systems test of all infrastructure-related components for its EV solution in Israel to commence before the end of this year, with Denmark up next year and Australia to follow from 2012.

The Tokyo site is a partnership between with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and industry (METI), and the city’s largest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu.

The latter will run three Nissan Dualis EV taxis converted by Better Place using switchable batteries provided by A123 Systems.

Better Place wants to demonstrate the sub-60 second time it takes for a battery switch, as well as the whole in-and-out process that takes less than two minutes.

For a Tokyo taxi that needs to be available at all times, this is proof of the speed and reliability of the battery switch method compared with recharging a depleted battery, which can either take hours, or – in the case of the mooted rapid five-minute fast charges – degrade the lifespan and performance of a battery, according to a Better Place spokesman.

“This is faster than the time it takes for a regular fossil fuel taxi to fill up,” says Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi.

 center imageLeft: Better Place Australia CEO Evan Thornley with RACV's general manager public policy Brian Negus at the Tokyo station opening. Centre: The battery swap station in action. Bottom: Better Place founder Shai Agassi.

Commissioned by METI, the Tokyo taxi experiment comes less than a year after Better Place’s first switchable battery concept in Yokohama. Since then, the technology has evolved and improved, according to Better Place.

Better Place Japan president Kiyotaka Fujii said Tokyo had about 60,000 vehicles – more than London, Paris and New York combined – representing a high mileage, high visibility segment that can serve as the catalyst for this technology to transfer to the mass market.

“Since our initial announcement of this project, we’ve heard from cities around the world interested in converting their taxi fleets as a concrete way to fight CO2 emissions and urban pollution,” he said.

“Electric taxis are a pragmatic step forward for governments as well as a lucrative segment in the electrification of transport.”

In Tokyo, taxis represent only about two per cent of the city’s overall vehicle fleet yet contribute to 20 per cent of all vehicular emissions, according to Better Place, with each of the 60,000 taxis exceeding 100,000km a year, resulting in over one million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions each year.

“It demonstrates that switchable battery electric taxis are reliable, convenient, and ready for broad adoption,” Better Place says.

This sentiment was echoed by Nihon Kotsu director and president Ichiro Kawanabe.

“Since we have to keep on driving our taxis, the switchable battery is the EV’s biggest strength,” he said.

Mr Agassi went on to announce that the Tokyo EV taxi demo also served as a shake-up to the Japanese motor industry.

“We did it to wake up the Japanese car industry,” he said.

“EVs are an electrical consumer device like plasma TVs … and like these they will get much cheaper while oil will be getting more expensive.

“And by 2022 every single taxi in Tokyo will be an EV.”

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