I happen to be an electric car enthusiast. I like the idea of driving clean and having silent power underneath me. It’s been talked about project Better Place lately, as being a system who uses a battery swapping infrastructure. IBM and the Danish government have involved in such a project and found it reliable. Mercedes, on the other hand, says they have tested the system in the 70s and found out it’s not so safe.
Thomas Weber, the chief of R&D at Mercedes, said that the system tested by them was very dangerous, as electrocution could occur easily during the manual change. They build about 40 electric buses for the project and tested it rigorously, with a manual horizontal battery swapping system. Well, the things and electronics have evolved since the 70s, but Weber may have a point on that.
Added to the precautions of electrocution, there is the issue of the battery’s quality. In my opinion, the system should normally have an intelligent charging and discharging mechanism, telling the customer what the state of the battery is. Also, it should also tell the charging station its parameters and reliability for a next minimum of miles, so there can be a standard that can be trusted by everyone.
Weber says that every electric car has to have its own battery and this should have an autonomy of about 125 miles, being recharged in a maximum of 15 minutes up to 80%. Weber also says that the battery technology to achieve this won’t be commercially viable until 10 years from now, and that Nissan’s ambition to follow the electric car dream are only achievable with huge government funding.
I’m sure Shai Aggasi, the founder of Better Place has thought of all that, and everybody is waiting for their reply to Weber’s message. I also think that the technology is more flexible than the one Mercedes had in the 70s, and project Better Place could be a starting point and a real scheme of proceeding to the comercialization of the electric vehicle.
Of course, there are some better proposals, such as a wireless on-the-fly recharging network, whose principles have been proposed by Tesla many years ago. But that’s another story.