Battery exchange stations an easy way forward for electric cars …

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on the front lines of global climate change

By Matt Owens March 2, 2013

An easy and cool way forward for electric cars


I was at a gas station today, standing over a puddle of gasoline, breathing in plenty of smelly fumes from that and passing cars when the thought crossed my mind, how hard would it really be to have battery exchanges instead of having to refuel with this nasty petroleum? What about having the car designed to accept a standardized mechanism that quickly pulls out your depleted battery and swaps it for a fully charged one?

These no-gas stations (battery stations?) would charge you for a full battery, minus the value of whatever charge remains on the battery you turn in. Seems simple enough to me. Of course, you d need to have an account with at least one battery station company, just like many people do now with gas cards or other credit and membership cards issued by gas stations.

One of the main criticisms of electric, battery-powered cars is they don t go far on a single charge, maybe only 100 miles. My car gets about 300 miles per tank of gas now — if I had to switch out a battery 3 or even 4 times as often as I fill up — so what? I m imagining some kind of fork-lift device that zips out when I pull in, and it slips out my low battery and slips a fully-charged one in — probably faster than the 5 to 10 minutes it takes to fill 15 gallons!

For all the bans on cigarette smoke, if you ve ever stood next to any street that s even barely busy with traffic, your nose will tell you there plenty of different chemicals in those tail-pipe emissions — and a whole lot of them are definitely bad for your health. Once people accept this self-apparent reality – then people will be willing and eager to spend their money on electric cars. Think how eagerly consumers buy up latest devices (now it s the Apple iWatch and Google Glass).

Having a car that doesn t pollute could become a status symbol and just as cool.

And, it really would be cool, with attendants zipping around on their miniature battery insert/extraction vehicles. Unfortunately, the industry has not designed the current electric cars with battery swapping in mind. But it would be easy to do.

For example, what about a simple button the driver pushes which starts the transfer? An exterior side panel pops open, revealing the large, heavy battery inside. At the same time, a mechanism inside your car (run on a small backup battery) automatically disconnects the battery from the car.

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This all happens in the blink of an eye — and then, the station attendant pulls up to your car on the fork-lift type of machine. A set of prongs slide into the standardized grooves, and the whole battery assembly comes right out. Just as quickly, a fully-charged one goes in.

With a second push of the same button, your car automatically connects up to the replacement, your card gets charged, the attendant asks if you want a receipt, and that s that.

Your cost is the electricity stored in the new battery, minus the juice left over on the one you just turned in. The station company owns all the batteries – you get to use them for free when you sign up for a card with the company. In fact, if the current gas stations transition to this new battery station business, your old gas card might just automatically enroll you.

So, if it s not rush-hour, and there isn t a line at the station, you can probably get in and out in less than 60 seconds. You might even roll your window down to chat with the attendant, and breathe in some fresh – clean – air. Remember when we used to use that nasty gasoline?

[Update: March 30, 2013: As it turns out, there already are 15 battery swap stations in Denmark ].

Saturday, March 02, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Permalink

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