Better Place to Bring Battery Exchange Taxi Program to San Francisco

By John O'Dell October 27, 2010

betterplacestation.jpgBy John O'Dell, Senior Editor

EV services provider Better Place and the San Francisco area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced a $7 million program this afternoon to bring Better Place's ambitious electric vehicle battery exchange demonstration program to the busy San Fransisco-San Jose corridor.

Better Place's Tokyo battery exchange station.
The funding, from the U.S. transportation Department, is to be used to convert 61 taxis to electric drive systems with quick-exchange battery packs and build four battery exchange stations in the region, which includes much of the Silicon Valley and its high concentration of technology companies.

Better Place, which is located in nearby Palo Alto, is promoting the idea that EVs are most practical if drivers can use stationary charging systems to top-up their vehicles' batteries during routing commuting but quickly switch depleted battery packs for fully charged packs when traveling long distances or when - as in the case of a taxi fleet operation - there's no time to park and hook up for a recharge that could take hours.

The full grant package announced in San Francisco today is for $33 million for a variety of clean air programs. Better Place's share will be used for the taxi demo program and there's another $7 million in the package for several companies that will be installing standard EV charging stations around the region.

Better Place, which also is developing battery charging and battery-switch infrastructure in Israel and Denmark, will work with  two Bay Area taxi companies and several local and regional governmental organizations to develop the taxi demonstration, which is expected to be ready to roll by early 2014.

Much of the intervening three years will be consumed by obtaining sites and building the battery exchange stations and selecting the taxi vehicles and converting them to the exchangeable battery electric-drive system.

Better Place launched its first demonstration program in Tokyo earlier this year with three taxis and one battery exchange station. The initial 90-day program was extended and is still in operation.

In addition to the nationwide infrastructure programs it is developing in Israel and Denmark - to be run in conjunction with EVs built and sold by Renault - Better Place also plans to begin installing charging and battery-swap stations in Canberra, Australia, late next year as the initial phase of a national infrastructure effort there.

Read more:
Better Place and GE to collaborate on EV Services.
Better Place Gets $350 Million Boost, Business Plan Explained.

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