Biofuels Better Place Battery Swapping Station

Published on September 6th, 2012 | by Nicholas Brown


Better Place Consortium Delivers EU Showcase in Amsterdam

September 6th, 2012 by  

Better Place Consortium opened an electric car battery swapping station at The Netherlands’ main international airport, and one of the largest in the world, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The station was opened in coordination with with the launch of a marque electric taxi project.

One of the unusual, but refreshingly distinctive Better Place stations.

The company also announced the appointment of a new CEO, Paul Harms. Harms previously served as the CEO of Athlon Netherlands, and as executive VP of Athlon Car Leasing.

“We’re thrilled that Paul has joined the Better Place team to lead and expand this project going forward,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and former CEO of Better Place. “And we’re grateful for the support of the European Commission, the Dutch and Danish governments, Schiphol, Renault, and all of our partners in making this project happen in less than 18 months. We’re determined to demonstrate to Europe that electric cars can drive any distance in any country and aren’t just limited to short-distance driving.”

The project consortium, “Greening European Transportation Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles,” was the first decarbonization infrastructure project that was co-financed by the European Union’s TEN-T program.

For now, this station will be utilized only by 10 Renault Fluence Z.E taxis operated by Connexion, Bios, and TCA.

The EV battery swapping station was built in partnership with the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Better Place announced that it will also build another switch station in Amsterdam to expand the Schiphol showcase.

The Schiphol-Amsterdam corridor is among the most demanding routes, with more than 700,000 taxi trips originating from Schiphol per year. Battery switch technology can enable electric taxis to operate all day because they don’t have to spend hours charging.

Better Place stations take less than 2 minutes to swap car batteries. They remove discharged batteries from the floor of vehicles and replace them with charged batteries. The removed battery is charged until another vehicle comes to pick it up.

Unlike most new concepts, the Better Place battery swapping one stands out because it has been around for years and is successfully operating in Israel and Denmark. So, I give them props for that.

Source: Business Wire

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

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  • Anne

    I have had doubts about the concept from the beginning. The infrastructure is expensive and limits car manufacturers to a few predefined battery formats. I don’t believe they are willing to give away their design freedom that easy.

    Heavy trucks is another issue. Because these are running most of the time, finding time to charge is much more of an issue than with passenger vehicles that spend >95% of their lives parked. Also, standardisation there is much easier since the basic layout of trucks is mostly the same and their design is driven more by utility than fashion.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m in total agreement, Anne.

      I think we’re short years from affordable ~175 mile range EVs and when that happens there will be no need for battery swapping, just some nice big “pipes” for quick recharges.

      No buildings, no supply of extra batteries, no lifting and shoving apparatus, no design standardization. Just a robust connection outside of places to eat and shop along the highways.

      Put a bunch in highway rest stops, charge an extra buck or two for the charge. Let the extra money pay for the rest stop/place for people stretch their legs/check their messages/walk their dog.

      Battery swap for trucks could be a winner. If trucks could drive for 2-3 hours and get a fresh set of batteries in a couple of minutes while saving a fortune on diesel, that could be a winner. I doubt it would take any time at all to standardize trucks to an efficient swap system.

      • EVHappy

        Non engineers do not understand just how much energy must flow (power output) to charge an automobile to be able to go 175 miles and do that in less than 5 minutes.

        Imagine a skyscraper and the power (instantaneous energy) it requires and you get a good idea. Megawatts! Just do the math and you will be amazed at just how much energy is contained in oil and fossil fuel products. It is truly amazing. That is why we are in such trouble.

        The swap system is good because you can do dangerous fast charging in the battery bay under excellent conditions. You can control the battery temp and if you get a problem, you don’t have your kids sitting just a few inches away. Yes, we will get there but there is nothing on the lab tables yet and thus we are about a decade away from fast high energy and safe EV batteries that are affordable. We can swap today with existing technology and go anywhere for cheaper than current cars.

        What is not to like?

        • Bob_Wallace

          You’ve got to charge those batteries which are pulled from EVs in order to use them again.

          Net number of batteries charged along a stretch of highways will stay the same.

          We will need to bring big wires to interstate exchanges regardless of rapid charge or battery swap.

          • EVHappy

            Sorry, Bob, you don’t understand the situation or what is common in the industry today. A swap station takes about the same energy as a skyscraper and will easily be connected by utilities. Israel has already done this initial work and showed it is not an issue. Same with Denmark. Now even Amsterdam has a swap station. Over 40 swap stations will be in full operation in just a few more months (over 20 are in operation right now).
            Currently, in the battery bays inside the swap stations a battery can be fast charged in about 20 minutes. Temperature is controlled, huge power is delivered, safely and the drivers in the cars are protected, just in case. Like I said, we will get there but currently we don’t have the technology to be able to safely and cheaply recharge a battery that will go 170 miles in less than 5 minutes. Once you admit that, the rest is easy. Better Place uses existing technology today and can easily upgrade to any new technology in the future. So, there is vapor and there is reality. You can buy a Fluence EV today and drive anywhere in Israel. That is a fact and it is a tremendous accomplishment. It deserves to be fully tested out before the naysayers pull the plug (pun intended).

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not convinced that the cost difference between a five minute battery swap and a 20 minute rapid charge will be supported by the desire of people on long trips to save that 15 minutes twice a day.

            Swapping requires real estate, equipment, and spare batteries. In car charging requires only a large capacity charger.

            Those folks are going to want to get something to eat, pee, check their messages, walk their dog, just stretch their legs.

            And I think you haven’t fully grasped that charging 100 batteries in cars uses the same power as charging 100 batteries in the charging room.

            (I’ve said nothing about recharging in-car in five minutes. That’s your creation. And since we’ve already got, are already using Level 3 rapid chargers I’ll just ignore your exploding car stuff.)

          • EVHappy


            Nobody is going to wait 20 minutes every 100 miles. That is what the best batteries on the market can do. It is that simple.
            “And I think you haven’t fully grasped that charging 100 batteries in cars uses the same power as charging 100 batteries in the charging room.”
            No, you misunderstood the difference. In the charging room there is temperature controlled fast charging with huge and thick cables where the substation connects to the building. In the car you have grandma dragging a thick cable that has enough capacity to power a large building and plugging that into a battery that is 6 inches away from her grandchildren, even if they were going to wait for 20 minutes, which they would not. Not for 100 miles.
            Sorry, Bob, we just don’t have that technology to do that safely, yet. Again, people are only going to spend 5 minutes, max. Even that is pushing it a bit but the testing has shown that drivers are not that inconvenienced because that is about what they have to do if they use CNG (far less range than using gasoline).
            So. go ahead and invest in a company that is going to put out a fast charging system that will make customers wait 20 minutes every 100 miles if you wish. It will fail because it is to inconvenient.
            We are talking what we can do today. Tomorrow is another day and if and when better batteries come out, we can build new applications. I doubt we will have fast 5 minute charging with children in the car for at least 10 years, if ever. It is just a tremendous amount of energy. Let us reflect on that when we see that beautiful gasoline flowing into your tank. Hydrocarbons are like a miracle. Too bad we abuse that bounty by burning it too quickly where it hurts our environment and we will be sucking our reserves dry in just 150 years (back side of the fossil fuel bell curve).
            Until humans learn not to live like yeast, energy is just one of our problems.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You really think we’ve reached “peak battery”? That we won’t have much better batteries within the next few years?

            Do you understand that we are doing 20 minute, 95% in-car charging right now without the cars blowing up and killing babies?

            A123 recently changed their lithium-ion battery formulation and doubled cycle life. That means that range can be significantly increased with the same size battery pack. (You can discharge them deeper and still have them last the life of the car.)

            That sort of stuff will happen until ranges are enough to let us drive a minimum of three hours before recharging. That’s enough.

            BTW, we’re already installing hundreds of fast chargers in the US. Within a year you will be able to drive from Canada to Mexico along Interstate 5 on electricity, a rapid charge point at a minimum of every 35 miles.

            And that’s just one of several “electric corridors” being created right now.
            Better Place has been pushing their battery swap system for a few years. If you’ll notice only one company is building EVs that will utilize it. Does that tell you anything?

          • EVHappy

            Peak Battery? lol. No. No Bob, we will continue to improve our batteries. However, we are not doing 20 minute charging for 175 miles and we definitely are not doing so for an affordable car. Let’s get reasonable. The EV must be as convenient as a normal car. That is the Better Place model. Yes, we can have Tesla and the like but they are 100,000 dollars! Practical, safe, and re-charge in 5 minutes or less.
            We don’t have that and will not for many years. There is nothing even close to that going into production. When they do, I will be the first to use them! Better Place will also be very quick to use that technology in their cars (they have an upgrade path and plan when batteries improve in any area – price, energy density, safety, etc. – whatever works economically for their model).
            So, keep dreaming that we have such technology in cars today and that people will wait 20 minutes to go 100 miles. Any such product will be about as successful as today’s EV (only the early adopters that have two or more cars for long trips). The Better Place model is ready today, is as convenient as regular cars and the cost is less, especially if the price of gas continues to rise or stay volatile (volatility is a risk and risk is a cost).

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion battery used in the Honda FiT EV
            and Mitsubishi MiEV can be recharged 95% in less than 18 minutes.

            Tesla Model S prices start at $49,900 and deliver a 160 mile range at 55MPH. The longest range, highest priced model is just under $100k.

            It’s very likely the EV of the near future will be much more convenient than a Better Place battery swap. One will simply park over a wireless charge ‘turtle’.

            Long trips might require plugging in a couple times a day. Pretty much like sticking the gas nozzle in your present car. This is something that would be easy to automate, you park, the charger plugs itself in, you go pee.

            This “5 minute charge” stuff is a strawman. Knock it the hell off, please. No one has ever claimed that we are likely to have 5 minute charging in the foreseeable future, if ever. Plus, we don’t need it.

          • EVHappy

            Bob, you are just not listening and thus it is useless to debate.  That Fit does not go 175 miles! Read what I wrote! Nobody is going to wait 18 minutes (brand new battery, best conditions – try in winter and after two years) to go 100 miles. Read what I wrote! The Tesla cannot quick charge to go 175 miles in 18 minutes and there is no charging infrastructure out there, even if it could and nobody is building it out! You go your 160 miles in your Model S and are stuck for hours to do it again, if you can find a good charging spot! Do you not understand that the EV must be as convenient as a normal car and cost the same, just like Better Place offers? You clearly do not get it! Regardless, there are no successful EVs out there, even thou some have been out for more than a few years now (Better Place just started selling to customers and just got their infrastructure up to the point where you can drive anywhere in Israel – give it some time, at least as long as the Leaf or Tesla had – and all the other EVs out on the market).
            Go ahead and try to get some investment money like Shai Agassi did (800 million dollars and counting) to do your fast charge 20 minute vehicle and don’t forget you need to build out the fast charge infrastructure like Better Place is doing. Nobody will fund you!!!! Do you get this? Nobody is that dumb, at least not yet. They all know the batteries are not ready for that and they know people will not wait 20 minutes to go 100 miles and still have to pay 40,000 dollars to do so.
            Thus, while our debate is fun, reality and investment are on my side. You are just talking and there are no examples that even come close to the model that Better Place has nor is there any investment to do so.
            So, keep talking and dreaming and waiting. It will be a long time coming.  Again – cheap as an ICE, fast to re-fill as an ICE, convenient as an ICE. Only Better Place has the model to challenge that. Cheaper – give the car away like cheap cell phones in the future, cheap to re-fuel – gas prices are volatile, No range anxiety – can drive anywhere in the country and only have to wait 5 minutes to re-fill. All here today. Done.
            Keep your dreams alive but in the meantime I will just watch Better Place run their network and watch it grow.

          • Bob_Wallace

            EVHappy, you are being thick as a brick.

            EVs are not going to be stuck with 100 mile ranges. We are not talking about right now, this very minute, but how the technology is likely to play out.

            If there were some physical reason for batteries to not increase in capacity then battery swapping would be a work-around. But we already have significantly higher capacity batteries in the process of being brought to market.

            The “100 mile” batteries in our EVs today hold about 120 watt-hours per kilogram. Envia’s lithium-ion batteries store 400 watt-hours per kilogram. That, with the same size/weight battery would make a 100 mile EV a 333 mile range EV.

            That capacity has been confirmed by third party testing at the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.

            Now, my guess is that we won’t build 300+ mile range EVs, but something more like 200 mile range ones unless batteries get super cheap. Most people just don’t make enough long trips to pay the extra money to avoid a second 20 minute charge stop per day.

            Perhaps larger battery banks will be an option for those who make more frequent long day drives. Right now one can purchase the Tesla S in 160, 230 and 300 mile ranges. Same car, range options.

          • EVHappy

            “EVs are not going to be stuck with 100 mile ranges”

            Yes, but they are today and there is nothing on the near horizon that is going to change that, and be affordable.
            No, Bob, we are talking about right now. Today! Better Place is a reality and is selling cars in Israel. We can talk about the future if you want or other fun dreams as we imagine what will and won’t be. However, Better Place gets to use that technology too! It has model advantages because the battery is separated from the vehicle and that prevents the consumer from buying the whole oil field on day one. It follows the very successful cell phone model and the current ICE model – Buy the car and phone now, pay for the fuel and minutes later.
            This will be my last reply to you because you simply can’t separate reality from fantasy, today from some fuzzy time in the future. Heck, maybe hydrogen fuel cells will have a breakthrough that makes pure EVs obsolete. Maybe it will be Christmas every day.
            Good luck with your dreams. I deal with realty and technology available today or at least very close to reality (that does not include the batteries you want to be real, nor what consumers will accept – waiting 20 minutes to fill up when they can have 5 minute fill-up times today!).
            Your system must compete with all the other systems and the Better Place model today already beats your model of the future! Impossible to get investors for that. Let me know if you do (I won’t be hearing from you).

    • EVHappy

      Expensive? A country only needs 1 week’s worth of oil use to provide the infrastructure needed to drive anywhere in that country, including the US.

      What about the expense of gas and not knowing what it will cost over the next decade?

      Predefined formats are bad? Like AAA, AA, D, C, 9 V?

      Heavy trucks is a whole different issue because they require such huge amounts of energy that only that beautiful black gold can provide. Still, many mid-sized trucks around the world are being powered by CNG.

      We may have to go to more electrified rail and do a way with long haul trucks or put in powered streets so that these trucks can charge on the fly (many ideas have been patented thus far).

      However, oil is in decline and more accurately, the net energy from fossil fuels are in terminal decline as we have to climb up higher in that tree to get the same fruit. that is why we have to frack, deep water and tar sand. We knew about these resources and technologies for decades – they were just too expensive. Still are, to maintain our modern infrastructure and keep 7 billion people happy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There’s a full-sized 18 wheeler EV with a 100 mile range right now. As batteries improve we will likely see that range double. Pulling in ever 3-4 hours for a <5 minute battery swap. This is likely to be a workable solution.

        That said, electrified rail makes more sense to me for shipments longer than moderate. Freight could travel at night on HSR when passenger use is down.

        The Siberian railroad runs almost double the distance of crossing the US. Trains run 24 hours a day with only short minutes between trains. And all the trains run on electricity.

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