Israeli electric car infrastructure company Better Place inched closer to creating an electric car revolution last night when it unveiled its first automated battery swap station in Yokohama, Japan. The $500,000 car wash-like system takes only 80 seconds to change batteries, and can be powered completely by solar panels.
Better Place will install more Switch Stations later this year, with 100 expected to be rolled out in Israel by 2011. Eventually, the company will install stations in Denmark, Australia, Hawaii, California, and Ontario. The Switch Station batteries will be owned by Better Place, and customers will buy subscriptions to use the stations. Better Place is also working on an electric vehicle network in Israel and Denmark with the Nissan Motor Co.-Renault SA auto alliance.
There’s still one major obstacle to overcome before the Switch Stations go mainstream. Electric car batteries aren’t standardized, so switching up batteries in a Toyota is a different prospect than switching batteries in a Honda. Better Place is convinced that car makers will ultimately use batteries from a small number of manufacturers, but for now, the Switch Station’s usefulness is limited.