Better Place in California

Translogic 42 takes a look at Better Place Tokyo, a battery and infrastructure provider for electric vehicles. They accomplish this by creating drive-thru stations that allow depleted batteries to be swapped out for a new, fully charged cells. The rationale is that Better Place battery service stations can be placed between cities and in metreo areas to extend the range of electric vehicles. If your EV is running low on juice and you don't want to wait a few hours for a full charge, simply pull into a Better Place battery swap station and have a new battery installed in about the same amount of time it takes to fuel a gasoline-powered car.

But Better Place isn't limited to Japan; they already have an Electric Vehicle demonstration center in Israel and more battery swap stations are planned in China, Australia and Denmark. In the U.S., San Francisco is set to lead the way for Better Place's North American endeavors where a fleet of 60 taxis will be employed. Four battery swap stations will be built between San Francisco and San Jose, and Better Place feels taxis are a good way to get motorist and tourists used to electric vehicles since they're being exposed in a safe and a familiar way.



Additionally, San Francisco and the surrounding areas rank second in California in terms of traffic congestion. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says although personal vehicles outnumber taxis, taxis are responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions because they're almost always running, constantly in use and are generally comprised of older, less efficient vehicles. Yellow Cab Co-Op and Yellow Checker Cab Inc. are lined up to participate.

Better Place is also planning to install public charging stations providing further infrastructure to support for EVs, and cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are first followed by Sacramento and eventually Los Angeles and San Diego. Better Place says there's an economic advantage to leading the way in EVs and the associated infrastructure, saying "California alone is estimated to generate upwards of $2.5 billion in jobs building this new infrastructure, with billions more in car and battery sales to consumers."

Battery swapping stations and the electric taxis that will use them are supposed to be in place within the next three years. But it may be best to view this with a bit of healthy skepticism as the first California/Better Place announcement was made more than two years ago.