At the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, told the crowd that his battery swapping stations would cost $500,000 to build, and that they would look like car washes.
There will be a little robot that slips under an electric car and replaces a pancake style battery that clicks in and out of place, via a “patented latching mechanism” according to Earth2Tech who was in attendance. The company is working with A123Systems to develop the battery.
Also in attendance on the panel, was Henrik Fisker, he of Fisker Automotive, who expressed doubt about Better Place’s plan. Fisker’s concern is that low to the ground sports cars like the Karma wouldn’t fit into the system.
Two other sceptics also chimed in:
Bill Reinert, the National Manager for Toyota Motor Sales’ Advanced Technology Vehicle Group, pointed out two possible barriers to battery swapping. Reinert said that an electric vehicle battery pack needs to be weather-tight to keep water out, and that the battery pack seals are not traditionally designed to be taken on and off all the time like they would supposedly need to for a swap station. In addition, Reinert said that cooling and heating batteries in the swapping system could prove difficult.
Sue Cischke, Group VP for Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering at Ford Motor Co. said that any car product that Ford works with would have to provide the same amount of reliability as Ford’s products. She pointed out that if there is an issue with the battery exchange, and the consumer has a bad experience, then they will blame Ford, not necessarily Better Place.
According to a long Times article from the weekend, Agassi isn’t worried about the sceptics. He thinks he’ll be able to do this with just Nissan-Renault as his partner.
We are sceptical, simply because we think his plan is very expensive. Martin LaMonica of CNET, was also at the conference and he tweeted, “Agassi: bilding charge stations at 25-30 mi intervals betw San Diego and Seattle would cost $25M. covers 25M drivers.”
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