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Video: Better Place Opens First Battery Swap Station in Israel Video: Better Place Opens First Battery Swap Station in Israel

Video: Better Place Opens First Battery Swap Station in Israel

by Ben Jervey

April 2, 2011

This week, Better Place, the innovative electric car company that we've been following for awhile now, opened up their very first commercial battery swap station. The concept of swapping out depleted batteries for fresh charged ones is what distinguishes Better Place in the burgeoning EV market. You'll never need to wait to charge your car—you just pull into one of the battery swap stations, robots switch out the batteries, and in three minutes you pull away. It's really no different than a full service fill-up of 93 octane.

Goodbye, "range anxiety."

Tal Bronfer at The Truth About Cars was there at the opening of the first station. He joked that he "couldn’t blame the residents of Kiryat Ekron – a small town located about 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv – for mistaking Better Place’s latest effort for an automatic car wash."

Take a look at this video and see what he means.

Bronfer explains how it works:

The battery switch process itself is thoroughly unexciting, which must mean great praise for Better Place’s work in developing the concept. The driver only needs to flash his Better Place RFID card at the machine, drive into the rather narrow tunnel and find something to occupy himself with during the upcoming 3 minutes. The car slides into position, slightly lifted – then an underground robot grabs the battery, disappears – and returns with a fresh one. All of this is invisible to the technologically impaired driver, while the geekier amongst us can watch the entire process streamed live on a TV planted outside.

"Unexciting" is exactly what a new automotive technology trying to be taken serious needs to be. The company plans to blanket Israel with enough of these stations that a typical driver can go anywhere in the country and not worry about running out of juice.

The first car to feature Better Place's new battery system is the Renault Fluence Z.E., and is currently selling for just $800 more than the most popular vehicle in Israel. Since economics won't be the limiting factor here, it's going to be fascinating—and instructive—to see if Israelis take to these electric cars.

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