Better Place Launches Switchable-Battery Electric Taxi Project in Tokyo; Converted Crossovers with A123 Systems Packs
|Electric taxi driving through Ginza in Tokyo. Source: Better Place. Click to enlarge.|
Better Place launched a 90-day switchable-battery electric taxi in Tokyo in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator. The project marks the next major milestone leading up to a complete system test of all components of the company’s electric vehicle solution in Israel before year-end.
Better Place worked on the design, engineering and conversion of the Nissan gasoline-powered, crossover utility vehicles, turning them into electric taxis with switchable batteries. The batteries for these cars are provided by A123 Systems.
|Battery being lifted into the underbelly of the electric taxi during battery switch process. Click to enlarge.|
For the Tokyo electric taxi project, Better Place and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, are operating three switchable-battery electric taxis, which are available to the public at the taxi line reserved for environmentally-friendly vehicles on the first floor of the Roppongi Hills Complex.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry commissioned Better Place to conduct the Tokyo project as a result of the company’s successful demonstration in Yokohama last year. (Earlier post.)
Tokyo has more taxis than London, Paris, and New York combined, with approximately 60,000 vehicles, representing a high mileage, high visibility segment that can serve as the catalyst for this technology to transfer to the mass market.
Since our initial announcement of this project, we’ve heard from cities around the world interested in converting their taxi fleets as a concrete way to fight CO2 emissions and urban pollution. Electric taxis are a pragmatic step forward for governments as well as a lucrative segment in the electrification of transport.
—Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan
The battery switch station deployed in Tokyo represents a significant advancement over the Yokohama switch system demonstrated a year ago. The Tokyo switch station features the integration of battery storage and charging with optimal thermal management capabilities. The Tokyo switch station also features nearly continuous operation of switching batteries for the three vehicles while optimizing battery life and performance, which can be monitored in real time online.
The industry is proposing various solutions to address extended range, but Better Place contends that battery switch is the only feasible option—from the perspective of cost, flexibility (with the ability to manage charge time to less than 5 minutes), and technology-that will work in the near-term while offering a convenient, effective charging solution.
The taxi project will demonstrate the duration, durability and robustness of the battery switch process and battery resistance to degradation under actual operating conditions with vehicles that operate nearly continuously and thus drive much more than average passenger vehicles.
By year-end, Better Place will test all components of its solution in Israel as the company continues to gear up for commercial launch in Israel and Denmark in late 2011. The complete Better Place solution integrates charge spots, in-car software, operations centers, cars, and batteries, in addition to switch stations, all managed as an intelligent network.