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Better Place Partners with AGL and Macquarie to Build EV Infrastructure in Australia; Victoria Sets Up Fuel Efficiency Working Group to Focus on First-Generation EVs

23 October 2008

Better Place is partnering with AGL Energy and financial advisor Macquarie Capital Group to raise A$1 billion (US$665 million) and to begin deploying an electric vehicle (EV) network powered by renewable energy. With the world’s seventh highest per capita rate of car ownership, Australia has nearly 15 million cars on the road after adding more than a million new cars in 2007.

Better Place will use its scalable model, also adopted through partnerships with Israel and Denmark (earlier post), to build the EV network in Australia. Macquarie will assist in business development and help raise the A$1 billion for the network build. In support of the project, AGL will provide electricity from renewable sources to power the electric cars and enable Better Place to deliver sustainable transportation.

The Better Place network infrastructure consists of three primary components:

  • Charge spots. These are to keep the batteries topped off with power so that they always have 100 miles of driving capacity, according to the company. Better Place is planning a 2.5:1 ratio of charge spots to cars

  • Battery switching stations. For trips longer than 100 miles (161 km), Better Place plans to build roadside battery switching stations. Stations are to be completely automated, and the driver’s subscription takes care of everything. The driver pulls in, and the depleted battery is replaced with a fresh one, without anyone having to leave the vehicle. The process takes less time than it does to fill a tank of liquid fuel, according to the plan.

  • Software to automates the charging and exchange process.

Better Place plans to buy, own and operate the batteries and electricity, and to offer kilometers to drivers on a subscription basis.

Better Place has an existing partnership with The Renault-Nissan Alliance. A prototype electric eMegane sedan shown earlier this year (earlier post) features a 100+ mile range, with energy economy of <4 mi/kWh (> 6.5 km/kWh), and peak power of >70 kW (91 hp). Battery exchange time is spec’d at 3-5 minutes.

Better Place says it is committed to open network access and leverages industry standards, allowing consumers to have a choice of make and model. Better Place expects the first mass market EV models to be available in Australia by the 2012 model year, a year after its mass market launch in Israel and Denmark.

Better Place has already identified formed the joint venture Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC, the joint venture between Nissan Motor, NEC Corporation, and NEC TOKIN Corporation) as well as A123Systems as lithium-ion battery providers in its “Better Place Ecosystem”.

Shai Agassi, CEO and Founder of Better Place, said that the network buildout in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size. At 7,617,930 square kilometers—roughly the size of the 48 contiguous United States, Australia is the world’s sixth largest country.

Australia also has the highest per capita level of greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world. Per capita, according to Better Place, Australia produce five times more carbon to generate electricity than does China.

With our commitment to build infrastructure and the Federal Government’s $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund, there is a compelling case for automobile manufacturers to jump in and build clean, safe, affordable electric cars for Australasia and Southeast Asia.

—Shai Agassi

Launched in October 2007, Better Place will build its first Electric Recharge Grids in Israel and Denmark and plans to activate the infrastructure on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning in 2010.

Victoria working group. Co-incident with the Better Place announcement, the Victoria Government announced the establishment of a working group to examine fuel-efficient vehicle technology, with a particular focus on the development of the first generation of electric vehicles and their infrastructure requirements.

The working group will:

  • Review current fuel efficient vehicle technologies research;

  • Assess further opportunities for alternative fuel and technology development;

  • Examine infrastructure needs for electric vehicles;

  • Make recommendations and assisting in the development of standards for electric vehicles and charging; and

  • Consider market and regulatory impediments.

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October 23, 2008 in Batteries, Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)

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Australia is a bit bigger than Israel, but there are lots of urban areas where this could be applied.

But why oh why do people insist on mixing up electric vehicles and alternative energy - the two are completely separate and there is no need to combine the two.

Just make sure that the cars are charged at night rate low demand times when possible and do your alternative energy as a separate project.

If you have a solar cell, run your house/office off it and push the excess into the grid.

There is absolutely a need to combine the two!

EVs will soak up night time renewable energy and enable a higher proportion of renewables on a grid. V2G will offer enormous storage capacity and load balancing services.

EVs will help drive renewable energy expansion - it will be a perfect symbiosis.

Most importantly, cars will become near zero carbon forms of transport.

Weird place to do PBP. I assume none of these cars are going to be driving from Alice Springs to say, anywhere?

I dunno, any Aussies out there? Do people pretty much stick to their 'island' city areas? How often do folks drive across the country? (I've heard about those huge trucks...)

Jim I think you've hit the nail on the head. Australia. like the US and Canada is fairly 'spaced out'. A big problem is that the outer suburbs are fashionable but not well served by public transport. Therefore BEVs may need a safe driving range of say 120 kms including at highway speeds. I'm inclined to think taxis and courier vans might suit battery power best. Cities may have to discourage private ICE vehicles in different ways to force people into BEVs in the central business district.

Supplementary measures might include better public transport and CNG for buses and trucks. I could be wrong but I don't see this concept taking off.

Aussies do not sitck to the cities. They don't normally drive accross the whole country, but readily do several hundreds around them.

@anon
Evs can best be charged with night rate electricity. This creates a market for underutilized night time power.

But this is not renewable energy - it is just energy - mainly from existing fossil sources that cannot be throttled back.
It has nothing to do with renewables.

If you look at renewables you have 2 main ones - wind and solar. Solar generates nothing at night, and wind may do so, but not in a reliable manner.

It is excess fossil or nuclear generation you are mopping up with your EVs.

You talk of EVs driving a renewable energy expansion - what do you mean by that - or is it just a slogan?

EVs can time shift demand to night time which is very good, but it has nothing to do with renewables - mainly mopping up excess fossil or nuclear.

At some times, there will be excess wind at night, but this will just be by chance.

I still cannot see a special synergy between EVs and renewables. I can see the load balancing effect of charging at night, but this has nothing special to do with renewables.

Shai Agassi smelled big money to be made in upcoming vehicle electrification.

allowing consumers to have a choice of make and model.

What about allowing consumers to charge also overnight at home?
Would they allow non-subscribers to recharge for fee?

He's not talking about establishing common charging interfaces and standards for all electric cars.
I'm suspicious.

Considering that in Australia most people live in private homes they can charge cars overnight, and wouldn't need much his network, an EREV may be cheaper.

How to get off the subscription, would such car be able to charge anywhere else?
Owners of BEVs that use their cars infrequently don't want subscriptions.

It's mostly suitable for taxis and courier vehicles in Australia, for Shai Europe is a much Better Place for subscribing users.

I'd feel better about PBP if they actually had some products or installations to show, in Israel. Instead they seem to be focused on press releases and partnerships all over the world. This does not look like a company aiming at success; rather, at one which is trying to keep the money rolling in for long enough that hopefully lightning will strike and they will find an exit strategy.

@Aussie,

I guess that's about what I figured. Then you'd be better off with PHEVs. Mostly drive commuter type distances, but can occasionally do the long distance thing.

Besides, I can't see Max driving "the last of Lithium Iron Phosphate Interceptors".

And it would be hard to have a pre-apocalyptic car race with BEVs, even with a nuclear plume heading your way.

On the other hand, PHEVs could run on gasoline, as well as methane, even methane created by a herd of pigs under Barter Town.

:)

Seriously, I really wish I knew what this Agassi says to these people to get them to agree to this highly suspect program PBP.

Right again Jim. Everybody the thinks Mad Max the Road Warrior was prophetic but the fact the sequel (Beyond Thunderdome) was based on methane fuel made it even more so. I just don't think commuters want to do do home battery charging then plug in again in the city for the return trip. We're talking maybe hundreds of thousands of charging points needed for a city the size of Sydney or Melbourne. Since Australia has 50 years of natgas (unless it's sold to the Chinese) and the fuel tax on NG will be 2c a cubic metre home NG fuelling is the better option. Not only cheaper but you can park anywhere during the day because you still have plenty of stored energy to get home. When NG runs out we'll have biomethane (a la Bartertown) then syngas made from garbage or with nuclear assist.

When they build the Volt I'd like someone to compare it to the Honda Civic NGV in terms of cost and versatility.

Aussie (the original)

Guys / Gals,

Missing a couple of important points. The first is that aussi families (like many others) have more that one car. Generation 1 for diving around the kids running earands all over the city (and suburbs) will be fine.

with a base range of about 150 - 200 km the actual recharge away from home will be relatively rare (thinks shopping centres and parking stations etc etc.

Lets do Sydney Newcastle to visit the family - 170km at 110km/h - very strictly enforced limit (risky to maintain a 120km/h average. can't make it on one charge? 5 min stop at the swap station about half way up the freeway will do the trick. My sister does this run about 20 times a year. so run around Sydney plently of trips to Newcaslte (or south or west) and you could happily live with the PBB model.

I don't like the battery swap model, I don't think it is sustainable. In fact it's not. PBB say so. It will do until we have the eestore or equivilient (and they are working on it).


Second point. - the majority of PBB charging will be done at home (named to read their litterature).

As annon. said renweables will work perfectly with BEV. electricity need are expanding and its all daytime suff (ie peak) this is where the first TW (yes I said terra) of solar will go in a national system. as we fase out the coal etc the size of the amount of installed battery capacity (both mobile and stationary) hooked up at any one time, will level the grid. at night we was lots of energy because its cheap!!!!

This is a great thing. Autralia is a real roll out market for wide sacle BEV. If it can work there, it can work anywhere!

Ciao,

Mike

(Variation of a rant I made on another blog)

The biggest problem with PBP is that it is the de facto socialization of personal transportation. Some gov’t committee (or worse yet, a company picked by the gov’t) is going to be deciding what kind of battery packs to use, what company can produce the charging stations, and what sort of cars can interface with this huge, massively expensive infrastructure.

And why? Because of the mistaken notion that you can sell electric cars like cell phones.

Look at it this way, either batteries will become competitive to allow full-electric vehicles (with acceptable range) or they will not. If so, then auto companies will build such cars to satisfy the consumer. Lots of different models, different battery pack form factors, different battery chemistries, etc.

These will all then COMPETE and thus make the system even better over time. How can a system based on a multi-billion dollar infrastructure (Agassi’s words) be competitive? How can the system ever be changed or upgraded without lobbying to some gov’t panel that would inevitably become corrupt, incompetent, or both?

The system would be laughable if it weren’t being taken so seriously by civic leaders who are being poorly advised.

The fundamental problem is that given today's technology, and even next year's and the year after, battery-powered cars cannot compete economically with gasoline powered cars. They are more expensive to build and operate, on a lifetime basis. No amount of financial legerdemain or rhetoric about cell phone models will change this. Somebody has to pay for all those battery packs, and they cannot charge enough money to end users to cover those costs, without the end users paying substantially more per mile than they would pay for an equivalent gasoline car. This is the fundamental economic and thermodynamic reality which PBP seems to be trying to obfuscate.

The only way this kind of model can work is if someone has deep enough pockets that they can take losses for the first few years, until battery technology advances to the point where it can be cheaper than gasoline. At that point they have a sustainable model, but as Jim points out, so does everybody else. What they also need is some form of lock-in, whereby at least early adopters, and ideally everyone, will be forced to continue to buy from the organizations that took those huge losses in the first place. That way these up-front investments and losses can be covered down the line, and all you need to do is to find investors who are willing to wait potentially quite a few years for payback.

But again, as Jim points out, this can't work if a free market is allowed to continue to operate among competing EV manufacturers, because that will undercut the lock-in which has to be a key ingredient in the economic witches' brew.

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Would a 15 minute full charge with three phase power make battery electric cars more viable? Blade Electric Vehicles, a company in country Victoria which sells Hyundi Getz convervsions @ $40k (AUD) and a 100km range, believes this would be the answer to long haul trips.

Australia has a heavily urbanised population with the vast majority of trips being >100km daily commuting so short range BEVs aren't as unworkable in Australia as many posters seem to suggest. Maintaining a different set of technology eg LPG for long haul trips might not be as ideal as we have had it with cheap oil as a universal transport fuel but we should be putting alternatives in place before shortages hit us hard.

I agree that battery change stations are unworkable if only for the cost of the infrastructure alone, although standardised battery packs could be made by different companies with different, higher capacity chemistries if the car's discharge/recharge electronics were made to be flexible enough. Admittedly, I don't know if this is possible with current or theoretical technology.

PBPs proposal does seem like pie in the sky but we are running out of time and, unfortunately, maybe even half baked options need to be seriously considered in the absence of a mature alternative transport technology which should have been under development over the past twenty years.

I don't know if there is an answer to the high cost of batteries. Would economies of scale and carbon charges be enough to make BEVs competitive?

Cheers,

Cam

Would a 15 minute full charge with three phase power make battery electric cars more viable? Blade Electric Vehicles, a company in country Victoria which sells Hyundi Getz convervsions @ $40k (AUD) and a 100km range, believes this would be the answer to long haul trips.

Australia has a heavily urbanised population with the vast majority of trips being >100km daily commuting so short range BEVs aren't as unworkable in Australia as many posters seem to suggest. Maintaining a different set of technology eg LPG for long haul trips might not be as ideal as we have had it with cheap oil as a universal transport fuel but we should be putting alternatives in place before shortages hit us hard.

I agree that battery change stations are unworkable if only for the cost of the infrastructure alone, although standardised battery packs could be made by different companies with different, higher capacity chemistries if the car's discharge/recharge electronics were made to be flexible enough. Admittedly, I don't know if this is possible with current or theoretical technology.

PBPs proposal does seem like pie in the sky but we are running out of time and, unfortunately, maybe even half baked options need to be seriously considered in the absence of a mature alternative transport technology which should have been under development over the past twenty years.

I don't know if there is an answer to the high cost of batteries. Would economies of scale and carbon charges be enough to make BEVs competitive?

Cheers,

Cam

Quoth Hal:

The fundamental problem is that given today's technology, and even next year's and the year after, battery-powered cars cannot compete economically with gasoline powered cars. They are more expensive to build and operate, on a lifetime basis. No amount of financial legerdemain or rhetoric about cell phone models will change this.
That's true only if transportation is the only billable service from this system.

It's not.  Any entity running a lot of properly-designed battery chargers can sell these services to the grid:

  1. Reactive power generation.
  2. Regulation.
  3. At the extreme, peak power generation.
A lot of this has been analyzed and tested, and the technical papers are on-line courtesy of AC Propulsion.

With a revenue stream from the grid side of the system and a subscription model for the batteries (so the user doesn't have to care about wearing it out; it's somebody else's problem) a lot of the cost disadvantages with EVs are reduced or even eliminated.  Note that the ICEV enjoys fuel courtesy of large military expenditures which aren't charged to it at the pump, so the true cost advantage of the EV would be much larger.

Cam,

I don't see fast charge batteries anytime soon. I would be great if they could show up, but consider this:
Let's say you do have a fast charge pack than can charge up in 15 minutes. Let's say it holds 30 kW-hrs. Let's say it's 95% efficient. That means the battery pack will have to dissipate over 5 million joules of heat in only 15 minutes. Not really easy to do.

E-P,

It sounds like the main utility of an EV on the grid would be accomplished with having some U-cap capacity. I agree with that. But I don't see what that can't be simply put on a PHEV. Then you'd have the revenue stream, a lower cost vehicle overall, and not be tied or bound to some infrastructure that some guy convinced your Mayor to buy.

If you don't like gas, use biomethane. That would run about $1000 for the engine and $1000 for the tank. And would displace 25-50 kW-hrs of batteries. So until batteries cost about 50 bucks per kW-hr (and last forever) I don't see the economics of EVs being favorable to PHEVs. There's always the 5 minute battery pack swaps, but you've already agreed that isn't too practical either.

"They are more expensive to build and operate, on a lifetime basis."

And operate? With gasoline priced at $4.00 and lubricants at $3.50/quart?

Some of these arguments and claims just reek of "paid to write this junk."

Ultracaps aren't any good for cruising power (energy density is too small), so you're basically talking about a high-performance conventional hybrid.  This can cut fuel requirements by 40%, but the BEV cuts them by 100%.

There's also the issue of the financial model.  The PHEV requires the owner to buy or finance everything, including the (relatively small, high-performance) battery.  That's the big problem with pricing the Volt.  If the battery is a larger, lower-performance and cheaper unit that is owned by someone else, and the battery owner supplements the subscription payments with fees from grid services provided, the car owner has much less to worry about.

E-P,

Even if that was true, you still have a vehicle that goes about 100 miles or so, and then needs 8 hours to recharge.

No go.

The only recourse at present are PHEVs (no added infrastructure needed except some outlets) or battery swap stations (horrifically complicated and specific infrastructure needed).

Quoth Jim:

Even if that was true, you still have a vehicle that goes about 100 miles or so, and then needs 8 hours to recharge.
No you don't.  You have a vehicle that goes 100 miles or so and then can swap its battery for a fully-charged one, good for another 100 miles.
The only recourse at present ... battery swap stations (horrifically complicated and specific infrastructure needed).
What's complicated about them?  You design the vehicles to take a certain battery, changed in a certain way; if you don't have any installed base which requires backwards compatibility, you can do whatever you can get the capital to build.  If the supply of charged batteries is sufficient you can swap dead for charged all day; there is no inherent limit for either battery swaps or tank-fills.

If you aren't going a long distance you can recharge the battery instead of swapping it.  This achieves the goals of a PHEV without having to depend on either small, high-performance batteries or liquid fuel for the extended range, and needs roughly the same hardware as a PHEV:  extension cords.  The only problem is the chicken/egg issue, and if the subscription model includes a free exchange for an ICEV when you have to go beyond the network of swap stations, that's dealt with too.  (Will we get beyond chicken/egg?  Until just recently I would have said no, the evolutionary route via PHEV was more likely.  Now I'm not so sure.)

And yes, current batteries are up to it.  If the EV1 could get 90 miles using spiral-wound lead-acid cells, Firefly Energy cells could at least double that range with far greater lifespan.  We've got what we need, we just have to do it.

Quoth Engineer-Poet:

Harvey: just as long as you aren't proposing a nightmare like battery-swap stations for long-distance driving, it should be relatively easy.

Maybe we should just agree to disagree? I appreciate that a larger pack makes some aspects of EV easier (you can use lower performance batteries). But I think that can also be handled technically, either by employing U-Caps (in addition to batteries) for boost, current regulation, and that grid malarky you've talked about, or going with a parallel hybrid strategy (like the Prius) instead of a serial hybrid (like the Volt) to limit max current draws from the pack. Or both.

Now you talk about adding spare vehicles ICE vehicles to the swap stations. Yikes! This is drifting into madness again.

If one can get PHEVs to work, then you'd could still have the grid interaction (and the benefits therein) but it would only involve the driver, the utility, and maybe the car company, and maybe the gov't. But no huge infrastructure provider that does not even exist at this point.

I'd say that if PHEVs are out, one would be better off changing driver mentality to deal with lower range EVs, rather than developing swap stations. Maybe this means having 2 cars, or better synergy with public transportation, or something like that.

If oil has proven to be an indulgence that has led to unreasonable expectations (personal transportation with unlimited range on demand) then sating that with another expensive thing is probably not the best way to handle it.

Cam, I think you mean that the vast number of commuter trips are less than 100km, otherwise we are in big trouble. Australia is one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world and 40% of car trips are less than 5km. Ev's should be part of the mix but are no silver bullet. Public transport and non-motorised modes are just as important.

Cycling is booming in Melbourne on the back of improving infrastructure. Trips to the CBD by bike increased 46% in the last year and 22% of the traffic one one of the main roads is now bikes.

Quoth Jim:

Now you talk about adding spare vehicles ICE vehicles to the swap stations.
I was thinking about something closer to a car-rental agency, where your subscription is good for a certain number of hours/miles per year depending on your plan.  If you punched a destination into the trip-planning computer and it was outside the range of the battery network, it would offer to reserve an ICEV for you at the agency instead of giving you a route and a set of battery-swap points.

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