A Tour of Europe's First Electric Car Battery Switch Station (Video)
This is an entry in my series on Denmark's myriad efforts in the climate and clean energy arena, and why they seem to work. I'm trying to find out if Denmark-ifying societies around the world might stop climate change ... Image credit: Better Place
The complaints about electric cars really just boil down to two persistent talking points: a) they're too expensive and b) they limit mobility. There are other gripes, sure, but none that get anywhere near the amount of headline space. Yet EVs are beginning to look more practical (helped along by government subsidies and rising gas prices), and companies like Better Place are working on increasing their range and versatility.
Last week, Better Place opened the first battery switch station in Europe (there's currently some up and running in Israel). The station, located outside of Copenhagen, Denmark, allows drivers who own electric cars with interchangeable batteries to stop in and swap them out when they're low on a charge. I swung by to check it out, and to test drive the Renault Fluence Z.E. -- the first EV to be mass produced with a switchable battery.First, here's Better Place rep Mikkel Linnet:
And here's a quick peek at the facility (Better Place is still a bit shy about the technology; I wasn't allowed to take photos or video from the other side of the glass), replete with my meandering, mumbled narration:
I guess the technology was technically pioneered in Japan, as you'll see below. But Israel is the first place to operate such a station. Nineteen more such stations are poised to open across Denmark in the next year.
Electric car drivers who subscribe to the Better Place service would approach the facility just like it were a car wash. Once they enter the facility, a robotic system replaces the battery automatically, in a matter of minutes. It looks something like this:
And now for the other half of the equation ...
Photo: Nufkin, Wikimedia Commons/CC BY
Test Driving the Fluence Z.E.
Here are my thoughts upon driving the electric version of the Renault Fluence, outfitted with a Better Place GPS system:
Battery switching is an intriguing attempt to quell concerns about EV range limitations. There are obvious hurdles: primarily, cost. And as Linnet notes, changing stations are a part of a cruel "chicken or the egg" scenario -- people have to be driving EVs with interchangeable batteries for switch stations to be useful, but nobody's going to pay extra for such technology until ample switch stations exist.
Thankfully, Denmark's government is willing to help encourage EV sales -- right now, taxes on conventional cars make them three times as expensive as the sticker price. The government plans on waiving those taxes for EV purchases. And it's primarily thanks to government interest that such a promising project -- this collaboration between Renault and Better Places -- can get a full scale trial here in Europe. And it's another good argument in favor of Denmark-ification.
More on Denmark-ification
Denmark to say 'Goodbye' to Fossil Fuels by 2050 (Video)
It's Time to Denmark -ify Our Cities: A Copenhagen Case Study ...
Life in Denmark's Super-Low Energy Suburb, Stenlose South