Friday, October 28, 2011

Pondering The Possibilities of Swappable Electric Vehicle Batteries

Readers of Conservation Value Notes know that I'm an enthusiast of Better Place electric vehicle battery systems. Running low on charge?  Instead of having to plug in my electric vehicle (EV) for hours to recharge, I can simply pull into a battery swap station. In minutes, I'm driving out with a fully-charged battery!

I can envision how battery swapping capability might offer ways around the range limitation of electric vehicles, a key factor holding back peoples' trust in them as everyday cars.  Let's say I need to drive to Tahoe for a ski weekend in my Better Place-powered EV.  If my limited-range spare battery (which I keep in the trunk) is not enough to get me there, I simply rent an extra battery or two (and maybe a portable overnight charger), and I'm good to go!  There's another a business opportunity (and an entire service sector) that could come out of the EV industry -- in the emerging paradigm detailed in Lisa Ganskey's The Mesh.

Even better?  How about if my house is powered by a solar electric system and Better Place offers a home back-up power supply in which the batteries are compatible with my EV?  They can therefore double as extra batteries for road trips!  Heading out of town for a camping trip in a wilderness up near Mt. Shasta? I simply pull one or two of the batteries out of my Better Place-compatible home back-up power supply and toss them in the trunk.

Granted, I have no idea how near or far Better Place actually might be from this vision.  I'm just pondering the possibilities of swappable EV battery technology.

What do you think -- which battery system is going to win in the emerging world of electric vehicles?


  1. Anonymous7:44 PM

    Hi Jon, I am Donald from Singapore. Amid the buzz of EV test bed in Singapore, which started on Jul 2011 until 2013, the idea of emergency battery pack came up in my mind. I am thinking if there's any business opportunity in this service aspect. May I know if you have heard of such spare battery packs already available in the market? I believe if there isn't, eventually, there will be a boom for demand of such product EV takes off and become our everyday's life. I am trying to prepare and ride on the wave when it comes. I have an electrical and electronics background and have come in touch with Li-po n Li-ion batteries before. My email is Feel free to contact me.

  2. Check this out:

    $150k for the system (in Japan) is pretty steep, but prices will come down for this type of system.

    My dream: a solar-charged EV. And a solar heated hot tub...

  3. I really like the idea of swappable batteries for the convenience, and also because it might accelerate the adoption of EV's. However, this leads to the multiplication of battery packs, and we still haven't found a way to dispose of them or recycle them at the end of their life-cycle. So all is well in the EV world, except 10 years down the road when batteries start dying, and we don't know what to do with them...
    Do you have any idea if anybody is trying to solve the problem?

  4. I've seen the system, the swapping station etc, and I've driven the car. This is the future!

  5. It seems that the future is now with charging stations, not swappable batteries. Networks of charging stations are been built across the US, and EV and Hybrid car manufacturers are behind it 100% (BMW has made some big noises lately), and so are states like California.