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Better Place

Electric changes everything.
Filed under:  Technology
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When we break the cycle of oil dependence, new things become possible. See how the switch to electric transforms the relationship between cars, people and the planet.

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Better Place logo.

The Bold Plan.
When you separate the battery from the car and view transportation as a sustainable service, you redefine the economics and experience of driving. Here's how it works.

How it works.
What does an electric car infrastructure look like?

The batteries of a zero-emission vehicle need three things in place in for optimum functionality: charging spots, battery switching stations, and software that automates the experience.

The charging spots will keep the batteries topped off with power so that they always have 100 miles of driving capacity. They are located where you work, live, shop and dine in parking lots so that an electric car will have the ability to recharge when the software instructs it to top off.

For trips longer than 100 miles (161 km), battery switching stations will be available roadside. Stations are completely automated, and the driver’s subscription takes care of everything. The driver pulls in, and the depleted battery is quickly replaced with a fresh one, without anyone having to leave the vehicle. The process takes less time than it does to fill a tank of liquid fuel.

Because most electric vehicles will be charging during the evenings while at home, the batteries become distributed storage for clean electricity. In Israel, for example, excess power from the growing solar industry will be stored in the cars’ batteries.

Similarly, in Denmark, un-stored energy from the country’s wind turbines will be utilized. Australia possesses wind farms throughout the country, as does California. Hawaii ranked 4th in the nation in renewable energy use in 2007 and plans to continue their efforts. Better Place can help each market identify and develop its own “virtual oil fields” of renewable energy.

Due to the open, standards-based approach that Better Place has adopted in the development of its batteries, there will be many manufacturers contributing to the pool of available batteries. This will maintain a steady supply and stable prices as more and more nations join them in their efforts to remake transportation as a sustainable service.

Electric Cars.
Better Place does not make cars. They partner with leading automakers to continue offering consumers the wide range of make and model choices they have come to expect. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the first automaker with the vision and foresight to join them, building zero-emission electric cars for Better Place network infrastructure. They are talking with other major car manufacturers around the world about doing the same.

These electric cars, sport utility vehicles and other models from leading manufacturers will look and perform much like what we drive today. They will be subject to the same safety standards, but will not have tailpipes or generate harmful emissions. They are quieter, more efficient, and more reliable than gas-powered cars.

While the automotive industry is facing enormous pressures and disruption, they believe the opportunities far outweigh the challenges as the industry’s century-old model transforms toward sustainability. For their part, they aim to accelerate the transformation to a sustainable electric solution.

Battery Technology.
The re-chargeable batteries that power Better Place electric cars have long been used in other industries, and are now ready for use in electric cars on a global scale.

In the last decade, the electrical power needs of laptop computers, mobile phones and power tools have driven advances in the efficiency and lifespan of lithium ion batteries. These advances have already been incorporated in the mass production of electric vehicle batteries.

Today, rechargeable lithium ion batteries can reliably deliver driving distances of over 100 miles on a single charge and replenish themselves at approximately one minute per minute of drive.Today’s technology is widely available and robust enough to meet the needs of global transportation, so long as there is an efficient and convenient infrastructure in place to support it. Better Place is building that infrastructure, an electric recharge grid.

As batteries have become mass-produced for the electric car network, economies of scale have pushed costs down and continue to lead to more technical improvements. This makes transportation as a sustainable service an even more affordable alternative to gas-based.

A number of already successful lithium ion battery companies are in place to meet growing demand. Their first lithium-ion battery partners include Automotive Energy Supply Corp. (AESC), a joint venture between Nissan and NEC of Japan, and A123 Systems. Better Place remains committed to a battery-agnostic approach that best serves this dynamic market.

Battery Exchange Stations.
In addition to widely deployed charge spots, the Better Place network will provide fully-automated battery exchange stations. These swap stations are designed to extend the driver’s journey beyond the 100 mile range of a fully-charged battery. Because most of today’s driving is within 40 miles of the home, a visit to one of these facilities will be infrequent when compared to the number of times we currently have to pull into a gas station.

These Better Place battery exchange stations are even more efficient and convenient than conventional gas stations. Each is roughly the size of your average living room. Like the charging spots, they are fully automated. A driver pulls in, puts the car in the neutral gear, and sits back. The battery exchange station does all the work. The depleted battery is removed, and a fully-charged replacement is installed. In under three minutes, the car is back on the road. It’s just like an automatic car wash, a quick, effortless, drive-through experience.

The battery exchange stations will be able to accommodate any Better Place-compliant vehicle. All manufactured batteries will be stocked so that any electric vehicle with a swappable battery, regardless of make or model, can pull in and be serviced.

Charge Spots.
The charging spots of the Better Place mobile operator network will be the regular point of interface between a driver’s car and the electric power grid. Within a few short years, these units will be available for use in parking garages, retail spaces, street curbs, as well as within the homes of drivers everywhere you need them to be so that they can keep the batteries topped off.

But what will these charging spots look like, and how will they function?

Each unit is about the same size as a standard parking meter. When an electric vehicle pulls up and parks, on-board software instructs the vehicle to link-up with the charging station until the battery is charged. The driver doesn’t have to do anything to begin the process. All vehicles within the Better Place model will have the same plug that allows them to charge at these spots, regardless of the make, model or power requirements of the electric car being driven. Cars outside the Better Place model can re-charge their batteries as guest vehicles, so long as the driver acquires an easily-installed converter. This allows for the growth and promotion of all zero-emission vehicles on the road, for the benefit of our health, planet and economies.

The charge spots function at 3.3 kW and 6.6 kW. In terms of voltage, the trickle charge is the same as a standard wall outlet in a home. The units are perfectly safe, as they are designed to only interact with the vehicles equipped to link up with them, and are completely weather-proof.

The change in landscape, when it occurs, will be striking. Gradually gas stations will transform into battery exchange stations. Electric charge spots will begin to sprout almost organically in and around our communities and places of business. Best of all, these Better Place charging spots will be a slender reminder of the world’s shift towards oil independence and sustainable mobility.

Renewable Energy.
Switching cars from the pump to the plug will drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that our society produces. If the 700 million cars on the road today were powered by re-chargeable batteries, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 10%.

Indeed, the Better Place model achieves more than just a reduction in pollution. They accelerate the widespread market adoption of renewable energy by creating new demand for it. Electric vehicles need a recharge grid, and that grid needs to be continually primed with power provided by utility companies. This represents a massive new market for electricity providers, and one that will allow them to begin a systematic paradigm shift to renewable energy sources.

How does the Better Place model provide a path away from the coal, oil, and other fossil fuel generation that is responsible for the majority of the carbon pollution threatening our planet?

They overcome the operational barriers that have historically impeded the development of renewable energy: demand, storage and support.

The first issue is one of demand. Contrary to what most people think, utilities generate more power than their customers require. But the system has hours of the day when the need for electricity is so massive that providing the power becomes a struggle. And at off-peak times, especially the evenings, there is surplus power that has few places to go. With a Better Place electric recharge grid, those off-peak times suddenly find demand. As electric vehicles charge their batteries during the evening after a day on the road, utilities have a newly-profitable period of the day to counterbalance the daily peak. And because most electric vehicles are fully-charged at the start of the day, their use of charging units during the day will make a minimal impact during those problematic peak times.

The second issue is one of storage. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are unable to provide power in the steady and continuous manner of a non-renewable facility. When the sun goes down or the wind fades, they can’t contribute power to the grid. And when they are pumping out the kilowatts, it doesn’t always coincide with peak demand. Industrially-generated electricity is tremendously expensive and difficult to store, so this green energy ends up going unused. But the Better Place grid is an industrial customer that is in constant need of electricity. Once in place, green power will never go to waste. There will always be a vehicle that can use it.

The final issue is support. Peak demand times put a crushing amount of strain on the infrastructure of energy providers. The Better Place grid can act as an ancillary storage system, due to its presence throughout the geographic area of a utility’s network. Excess power can be offloaded to the Better Place grid during down-times, and accessed quickly when the peak hours erupt with demand.

Because Better Place can address these issues, and act as a stabilizing influence on the power market, utilities will find greater and greater incentive to invest in renewables. Freed from the need to scramble for available power during peak hours, and provided with a new market whose requirements are dependable and manageable, energy companies will sign more and more deals to construct solar fields and wind farms, reducing their outlay on such polluting materials such as coal and oil.

Right now, utilities are looking forward to the benefits that a partnership with Better Place can mean for them. Better Place is securing guaranteed quantities of renewable energy at guaranteed prices, in much the same way municipalities are making deals. More than that, Better Place serves as a collaborative partner as well as a customer to the energy generators of the world. They are their best path to sustainable prosperity from the renewable and environmentally-friendly energy our planet and our people need them to provide.

(source: Better Place)

Better Place Unveils First Automated Battery Switch   Japan EV Study.
Better Place opens first electric vehicle demonstration center   
Better Place   Official site.
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