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Better Place to Conduct Pilot Project in Tokyo for Electric Taxis with Switchable Batteries; Research Partnership with University of Melbourne

Better Place has received an award from the Japanese government to conduct a pilot project in Tokyo for the world’s first electric taxis with switchable batteries. Better Place will partner with Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu, in the project commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s Natural Resources and Energy Agency.

The project, which follows on the company’s successful battery switch demonstration earlier this year in Yokohama (earlier post), is slated to begin in January 2010.

Japanese taxis represent two percent of all passenger vehicles on the road in Japan, yet they emit approximately 20% of all carbon dioxide from vehicles due to their average distance traveled in a given day.

In Tokyo alone, there are approximately 60,000 taxis, a far greater number than in New York, Paris, or Hong Kong. The outcome of the Tokyo pilot program for electric taxis could point to opportunities in other urban centers. Additionally, success within the heavy use taxi industry will help to ensure efficient technology transfer to the mass market, where daily mileage is far less on average.

The electric taxi pilot will showcase the everyday use applications of the Better Place model, and will involve the construction of a Better Place battery switch site at a location in the Roppongi Hills area in Central Tokyo. Up to four newly modified and fully operational electric taxis will be operated from an existing taxi lane for environmentally-friendly vehicles at the Roppongi Hills complex.

Tokyo R&D Co., a specialist in automotive engineering and production, will supply the EVs based on commercially available vehicles with the necessary battery latch mechanisms and switchable batteries. Tokyo R&D also will be involved with building the battery switch site and provide diagnostic software for the pilot.

The vehicles will be put into standard taxi service by the Nihon Kotsu taxi company. Battery switching duration, vehicle range, and battery resistance to degradation will be tested under actual operating conditions.

Partnership with University of Melbourne. Separately, the social, political and environmental impact of the mass adoption of electric vehicles in Australia will be explored by the University of Melbourne through a partnership with Better Place Australia.

The company’s first demonstration electric vehicle is housed at the University of Melbourne and will be used to evaluate the new technology. It is hoped that one day the entire University fleet could be converted to electric.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, Better Place and the University of Melbourne also plan to develop a state of the art energy education facility at the main university campus providing the public with hands-on access to the latest technologies.

This new facility, where students and guests will be able to ‘touch and feel’ the exhibits as they learn about electric vehicles, energy and the environment, will set new benchmarks in experiential education Design of the facility is scheduled to begin in 2011.



These sound like good programs.

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