Skip to Content

Electric Vehicle Battery-Switching System Unveiled

Startup Better Place demonstrates a system for swapping out depleted batteries for charged ones.

Better Place, a company based in Palo Alto, CA, that’s made deals with numerous governments around the world to install charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, has demonstrated its battery-switch station for the first time. The event took place at 1:30 A.M. ET this morning, in Yokohama, Japan, as part of a government-sponsored exhibit. Japan is studying ways to meet a target of having electric vehicles account for half of all new vehicle sales by 2020.

One thing holding back electric vehicles is their limited range, due to the large size of battery packs and the cost of batteries. A battery-switch station allows drivers to quickly swap out a depleted battery for a charged one. If these were placed at intervals along a highway, they would allow for long-distance trips without stops to recharge the battery, which could take hours. The automatic switching system can swap out a battery in less time than it takes to fill up a gas tank, Better Place says. Other automakers, such as GM and Fisker Automotive, are opting for a different strategy to extend the range of electric vehicles. They include an onboard gas- or ethanol-powered generator to recharge the battery during driving.

Here’s a video of the switching station in operation.

Better Place says that the switching station is designed to work with a number of different battery-pack configurations. But many experts warn that, if these stations have to supply too many different types of batteries, they will become too large and costly to be practical. As it is, automakers that are developing electric vehicles are designing custom battery packs for each vehicle, rather than one pack that can work with their own vehicles as well as with those of other manufacturers. Chrysler, for example, recently unveiled five different battery packs.

The switching-station demonstration involved a Nissan Dualis SUV fitted with a battery pack that uses battery cells from A123 Systems, based in Watertown, MA. Better Place has been collaborating with both Nissan and A123, but the company says that production electric vehicles from Nissan won’t necessarily look like this.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

The Steiner tree problem:  Connect a set of points with line segments of minimum total length.
The Steiner tree problem:  Connect a set of points with line segments of minimum total length.

The 50-year-old problem that eludes theoretical computer science

A solution to P vs NP could unlock countless computational problems—or keep them forever out of reach.

section of Rima Sharp captured by the LRO
section of Rima Sharp captured by the LRO

The moon didn’t die as early as we thought

Samples from China’s lunar lander could change everything we know about the moon’s volcanic record.

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

ASML machine
ASML machine

Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law

The Dutch firm ASML spent $9 billion and 17 years developing a way to keep making denser computer chips.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.