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Better Place Extends Tokyo Battery Swap Trial for Additional Three Months

Better Place has extended its switchable-battery electric vehicle (EV) taxi pilot in Tokyo (earlier post) to operate through the end of the year. By extending the trial—which involves three exchangeable-battery EV taxis—Better Place says it will be able to further evaluate and optimize the design and integration of the components of the system including the battery switch station (BSS), the EV taxis, battery performance and charging as well as driver behavior and consumer acceptance.

The current trial is part of a program run by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The pilot project began on 26 April, in cooperation with Nihon Kotsu Co., Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, and focuses on the feasibility of battery switch as means for taxis to have instant, zero emission, range extension.

The extension of the program has received approval from the Ministry’s Agency for Resources and Energy, which will maintain its continued role in the project. Operations are to be temporarily suspended during August so that EV battery and onboard vehicle data can be analyzed and will resume again on 1 September.

Up to this point, there has been very little information about how an EV battery will perform in heavily used, real-world, taxi conditions. This program has provided us with critical insights into the battery performance in a switch model and switch station performance for the toughest customers—taxi drivers.

By extending this program, we hope to gain further insights into the battery performance and durability of the switch station itself, which will be invaluable as we move towards commercial launch later next year in Israel and Denmark.

—Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan

While a comprehensive analysis of the data is still being conducted, some initial data points about the taxi project include:

  • 40,311 number of kilometers driven
  • Taxi drivers went through the switch station 2,122 number of times
  • Average switch time 59.1 seconds
  • 3,020 passengers have ridden in the taxis

Up until now, battery management has been handled under a unified system that integrates factors such as remaining onboard energy, the location of the EV taxi in question, current BSS battery recharging/storage status, and more. In addition, new programming at BSS facilities will make it possible to optimize battery-charging rates based on temperatures and performance.

Rather than having battery-recharging rates managed manually, the facilities will be programmed to speed up or slow down recharging automatically for optimum charging process to extend battery life span and performance

Consumers and visitors to Tokyo will continue to be able to ride in the EV taxis during the extended trial by signing up at the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills.



What I don't understand is while the trial period is so short in the first place. Most of the money has already been spent on building the cars and the swapping station, so running the program for 3 months hardly seems like a long enough period. So now the test period will be around 6 months? Still doesn't seem like much.


Perhaps it was enough time to gather the data they wanted to verify their simulation tools.


With quick charging, you do not have to swap batteries. The Chrysler EPIC minivans in the mid 90s ran for 4 hours and charged for 1/2 hour and did well with NiMH batteries.


The battery change time (59.1 seconds) is extremely fast but the distance traveled between battery changes (18.99 Km) is rather short. Were they using smaller batteries for these tests?



this ratio (19km) is notrelevant :

- "many switches that are done for demonstration purposes at the switch"

-"taxi customers are so thrilled that they keep asking to go to the switch to see how the robot switches while they are in the car"

it's currently a 160km not less for a full charge
just test it!


Japanese are gadget-freaks and love to try new things. I can believe that some would take the cab just to be in it when the battery gets swapped. Unfortunately, that might not give a good evaluation of how the batteries will be treated when the newness has worn off.


Taxis duties are very good test runs for battery swap technique. At slightly less than one minute for every 160 Km, you may go a fair distant with only two very quick one minute stops. This idea may not be as foolish as was said, especially in small countries like Israel, and many EU countries where 500 Km is a long trip..


The Leaf can do 160 Km without swapping, or charging. Swapping is a waste of time and money. Smaller countries have even less need of swapping since it's cheaper to just design a car with a large enough battery pack instead of keeping part of that pack sitting in a swap station. Last I checked a Leaf could handle the average days work of a taxi with a single not-that-fast lunch time charge.

Ronald Brak

When I first read about Better Place's battery swap scheme I didn't think it would take off, but I didn't realize how useful it would be for taxis. Provided the swapping station is conveniently located, changing the battery a few times during a 12 hour shift would be a small price to pay in relation to the savings in fuel and maintenance.

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