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back to article Multi-million investment hints at UK battery swap shops

A UK rollout of Better Place’s battery swapping system now looks all the more certain. The firm has just secured a $350m (£216m) investment from some of the world’s largest banks. The money - $125m (£77m) of which was provided by HSBC – will be used to help Better Place “expand its geographic footprint” by expanding into markets …

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Underestimated

This technology isn't getting the coverage it deserves.

One of the biggest barriers to the Electric vehicle market is range. While you might well get 200 miles out of a batter, as long as it takes hours to charge, it's not going to be a viable alternative to petrol or Diesel. With this swappable battery technology, the range question is no longer a serious issue.

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FAIL

This Should Be Interesting

I can foresee an underground industry of counterfeit batteries.

If I have to cancel my card from time to time, because the gas station attendant writes down my CVV, why the hell will I expect them to replace my genuine $500 Toyota Battery with another brand new Toyota battery?

No, I see cars exploding all over the place, and running out in the middle of the Mojave desert...

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Good point.

OK, so we're not expecting to get a brand-new battery every time, but as battery capacities degrade with age, you have no idea how far you can go after a change. It's like going to a petrol station, asking for a lucky dip on fuel amount and running without a petrol gauge. (My work laptop still shows over 90% charge 30 seconds before it pops up a low battery warning and spontaneously shuts down....)

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True...but...

Would it not be fairly easy to include a small chip with a charge cycle counter like the macbooks and ipods have with a policy to discard batteries after 300 cycles or whatever the 80% mark is.

I would also expect batteries swapped like that to last longer than ones stored at home since they could be stored in ideal conditions.

It also means you don't have a sudden large expense when you want to replace the battery in your car, or it keeps its value better. or both.

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Anonymous Coward

Probably not

more than $500 closer to $5000

Perhaps they would all be rented

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Anonymous Coward

Fortunately,

most countries worth discussing have agencies that just love to regulate things like this. Pretty good chance they'll be busy poking their fingers about once the system starts getting going. Requiring service stations to provide batteries charged to hold a minimum of xx% of the rated capacity isn't that much different from the sorts of things that are already done. Government agencies seem to love certifying the quality of various consumer products. It's also in the station's best interest to not try to gouge the consumer too much, or he'll just go to a different service station that does fill the batteries properly, or learn to do it himself.

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@The Indomitable Gall

It should be pretty trivial for car battery pack diagnostics to keep track of power out & power in and get a very good idea of likely capacity, especially if a pack is given a check-up now and then.

As for fake packs, it can't be *too* hard to have decent anti-counterfeiting tech in battery packs, cars and recharging stations.

If battery packs and cars report where they've been, tracking down where fakes entered the system shouldn't be an insurmountable problem.

For example, someone's car had legitimate pack A fitted at garage X last Wednesday, but arrived at garage Y on Monday with a pack identified at the time of later as dodgy. Obvious question to ask them (or maybe their car) is where they went in between, if they don't appear to have gone to any legitimate battery swap place. They should be keen to answer, assuming they ever want to get batteries swapped in future.

Likewise with the good pack - unless it's been sold for scrap or taken abroad, when it resurfaces, it's going to get spotted unless someone can give it a fake history.

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Anonymous Coward

Spotting Fakes

Ask your local watchmaker how easy it is to spot a fake Rolex. Ask Microsoft about their holograms.

A lot of counterfeits these days come from the very factories that make the originals. They just leave the production line on for a couple of extra hours, and dial down the consumables, so they don't show up so much in the bottom line.

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@AC

>>"Ask your local watchmaker how easy it is to spot a fake Rolex. Ask Microsoft about their holograms."

I wasn't aware that Rolexes were loaded with electronics, and that owners were likely to have them checked out on a weekly (or even daily) basis by people who have a large incentive to be able to spot a fake, and potentially the means to check a watch's internal data against a database of the travel history of every known legitimate Rolex.

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FAIL

In the near future

I wasn't aware of how easy they were to remove, now not only will our youth of our country leave your car on bricks for the alloys but the battery to! at lest its another excuse I can use at the office when I'm late "bloody kids nicked me battery"

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Happy

Not quite there yet, secondary (or reserve) battery recommended

This is exactly the same concept that I suggest for the future of electric car:

http://craeser.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/clean-energy-why-do-we-seriously-consider-electric-car/

The car should have a secondary (or reserve) battery that is light enough to be hand-carried. So, if there is no more juice for the car, the driver can pull out the reserve battery and swap the reserve battery at the nearest battery station (swap center, or whatever it is called).

Again... The idea is that the battery does not belong to the owner of the car.

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Silver badge
Troll

Sooo......

...they've managed to get ALL the makers to agree on standardised packages and energy densities are locked in for the next 40 years?

The porcine aerobatic squadron is currently on finals approaching runway 27

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Alert

Counterfeit fuel

You don't have to wait until batteries come for dodgy fuel. Buying diesel along the N. Irish border can be a risky business, as the $ex-terrorists have a sideline in "washing" agricultural diesel of the red/green dyes used to mark it as tax-free. This leaves an acidic residue in the diesel that seriously wears the cars lifespan.

(As well as some seriously toxic waste, which gets dumped illegally as well).

At least the batteries can be branded with holograms, digital signatures in firmware, etc.

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What about partially-used batteries?

It sounds simple to swap over an exhausted battery pack for a fully charged pack, but in reality the old pack will always have some residual charge - else how did you get to the station?

So some means needs to be incorporated to give the driver credit for the unused charge. This is never mentioned - is it a practical possibility ?

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Standards?

Doesn't this to some extent assume there's an industry standard for battery placement/removal? I think it's a good idea but I would have thought until there's at least a vague consistency on battery location you'll end up with overly complicated removal systems to cope with all the possible options. Of course if we're at that stage I apologise and will berate myself thoroughly for not paying attention.

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Stop

Swappable - the good, the bad...and the ugly.

So the obvious good and bad has been mentioned before:

Good - enables longer range travel by quickly swapping out the battery instead of waiting (hours?) for it to charge.

Bad - you get a lovely new battery with your new car...only to have it swapped out by one years old which no longer holds as big a charge.

...the Ugly - membership fee?

Let me clarify that last. One of the issues I have with Hybrids is that they have batteries. While battery technology is getting better, they eventually will not be able to hold enough charge and will need to be replaced. Not sure if most owners think about that at the time they purchase their car. Likewise with the new eCars, their batteries will eventually have to be replaced. But wait...you are constantly swapping out batteries, so does that mean that you will not have to ever pay to replace your battery?

Someone has to eat the cost of the battery replacements. If it is a battery-swap business they will either charge you a good premium for the service or require you to pay a membership fee. A membership locks people in and limits competition. Add all of the infrastructure, distribution, inventory and other costs and this will be a convenient but pricey travel option.

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FAIL

60 seconds to replace battery

60 minutes to set clock to correct time on dashboard.

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FAIL

"Technology"

@fifi oh please stop referring to this as "technology" as if it was some cleverly researched process or technically advanced procedure.

Its dropping a flat battery out onto t a motorised pallet, hardly very "technical"

.. uh .. unless some idiot has been stupid enough to give them a patent on the idea ... oh,. I suppose I don't even need to check that one out do I?

I can see one good use for it though ... be an ideal way to swap out your almost-knackered old battery for an up-to-date one for the price of a recharge :) and that surely is where the problem lies ... who on earth is going to take their brand new leccy car to one of these places and watch as your 100-mile-old battery slides off to be replaced by a slightly cracked, 100,000 mile knacker? what are the options when the pack they fit to your car fails to get you home, expiring after 30% of the rated capacity?

Does this mean that Leccytech are going to take resposnibility for maintaining and replacing the batteries in their care? sounds like a big money loser.

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Go

Well..

I can see everyone renting a battery, I can also see different tariffs, for a new battery you will pay more than for an old one. People pottering round town can charge at home or just pop to the battery station and those going further a field can make the trade off between paying more for a better battery which lasts longer, or paying less and having to stop at more battery stations on the way.

Of course the only way to do this really is to test each battery after discharge for efficiency and amount of times charged.

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doubters

I don't understand why there are so many people knocking this system.

It has so many advantages.

Obviously you don't own the battery in your car and the charging company is responsible for replacing the cells when they reach end of life. This is what you are paying for.

The charging company is able to source green energy for charging the batteries and they will have the infrastructure in place for clean disposal and recycling of used batteries.

If they didn't do all these things no one would use the service and the business would fail.

The biggest hurdle to overcome here is a standardisation of the battery packs across vehicles. This doesn't have to be a one size fits all scenario but small, medium, large, XL would probably suffice.

Without this kind of a system electric cars are going to take a long time to catch on.

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re: doubters

Actaully, you only need one size. A predetermined cell-size with a similarly standardized output voltage. Make it, say, the size of a thermos. Cars can then carry a variable amount of those cells, allowing amongst others the option of mixing old and new cells to get more life out of your old batteries.

Bigger and heavier vehicles can then still have respectable ranges, simply by adding more cells to the battery unit. And if your battery does run dead on the road, you can take a few of those cells out and go for a hike to the nearest swapping or charging station to get fresh batteries.

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Flame

except that...

you should not mix old and new batteries!!

Old batteries drian faster and experiance voltage drop sooner. New batteries maintain higher voltage longer, once an old cell drops the new cells start to recharge it, wasting power neeeded to drive the car, reduced power = crap performance.

if you mix non rechargables very bad things can happen when the full cells recharge the flat cells. thats why all battery operated kit comes with a sheet of saftey instructons (which you obviously never read!).

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@AC

Good point - probably could do with some expansion.

>>"if you mix non rechargables very bad things can happen when the full cells recharge the flat cells."

There's generally only a safety problem with lithium cells (primary or rechargeable).

Also, for virtually all battery-powered *consumer* kit, cells are in series.

When one goes flat before the rest, if the equipment still carries on drawing current, the dead cell it doesn't get recharged by the other cells, but reverse-charged.

For alkalines, that's not usually a great problem, though it may increase the chances of leakage.

For NiMH cells, reverse-charging can weaken or even wreck the cell, especially if prolonged.

For primary lithiums, reverse charging can lead to cell explosions.

For [common] rechargeable lithiums, reverse charging (or even excessive discharge) can lead to violent problems at the time, or on a subsequent charge, though rechargeable lithium battery pack and cells generally tend to have protection circuits built in to try and stop that happening.

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Go

future upgrades

There shouldn't be a problem with improvements in battery technology over time - the swapshop just needs to offer a 'premium service' for batteries which have a higher capacity. As long as the output voltage and the unit's size are consistent, there is no problem.

I don't hear people complaining about compatibility issues when the swap a 700mA AA battery for a 100mA one.

In fact I can see a future for the older batteries being swapped at a discount - pay half-price for an elderly battery which no longer lasts as long as a new one perhaps?

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TRT
Silver badge
FAIL

Doomed.

Have you seen how much wear, bumps, scrapes, road dirt, snow, salt and badger get stuck to the bottom of a car? And some Cyberdine systems high-torque nut driven pawl system is going to come free clean and easy every time is it? Engineering fail. Real world consideration? Zero.

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Anonymous Coward

The only way...

The only way I can see this working is to two batteries in each vehicle. (and maybe a third 5 mile emergency reserve)

One built in, yours to own and charge, polish and stroke, and enough for 50 miles or so. This is your main reserve, or enough to get you to work and home each day.(dont lug a pallat bat around when you dont need it)

second rentabat, pick one up when you want to go on a long journey, and change it on route. run it till its flat, and you swap back to your pack, and go to get a another swapper.

the swappers need to be a minimum standard and need to contain a certain amount of charge which can be paid for. if the pack will not hold enough it goes for recyling. maybe two options are available to buy at different prices, max charge (100%) and a full charge (80%) each a specific amount of charge, this way older batteries can still be used. and it leaves the way open for new technology the 200% super charge lithium iron phosphate technology or whatever.

each time you rent-a-bat you pay a deposit (£50?) and an amounrt for the power, and each time you return one you get your deposit back if you swap you only pay for the power.

by using your own battery aswell you can do the daily short journies from home to work/supermarket without worry and when you need the distance an add on batt pack will help! and keep you going.. and because you pay for a fixed amount of charge and are able to use it all (without getting stranded) it is cost effective. Whatsmore, because you have your own battery you can start your journey before you need to get the addon.

I would say that the addon needs to have at least twice the power and probably 4 times that of the internal battery. The addon should also replenish your internal pack, so when the addon is flat you have full charge to find a swaper shop. so say internal = 50 miles then the addon needs to ideally be 200 miles.

so if you drove 50 miles on internal bat then added a swapper it would refill your internal and enable you to do 150 miles before the pack was flat you then have 50 mile from your own pack again to find nother swapper shop.

if you put an addon on at the start you could drive 200 miles before swapping to internal and looking for a swapper shop.

of course if you are driving a 4 ton 4x4 truck/tractor then you might only get 100 miles out of an addon pack.

how can this recharging thing work? if the internal battery is lower voltage than the addon then the addon can fully charge the internal, it also means that the internal cannot provide maximum power to the car on its own so without an addon it may only be suitable for city driving, (short commutes) with an addon it is capable of full motorway driving.

However I still say that the main develeopment for electric cars needs to be Electromagnetic regenerative braking. this will make a vast difference to all electric car mileage.

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Stop

Redundant technology

Battery cars are a good interim technology, but Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are going to be going into production in the next few years and will make this kind of technology largely redundant. I wouldn't want to invest my money in battery swapping stations.

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Gold badge

Bring on the lawsuits.

There are a few companies out there with 'leccy vehicles already in production.

They've done all the design and preproduction work, have got the product to market and have invested considerable sums to get to this point, sums that should be recouped by sales over the vehicle's life. I'm sure they'll all be delighted at some other company dictating a "standard" replacement system, rendering their current product(s) instantly obsolete at a stroke.

Let's face it. Any manufacturer who this description fits has been placed in a "sue or go bust" position and I think they'll sue.

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@TeeCee

>>"Let's face it. Any manufacturer who this description fits has been placed in a "sue or go bust" position and I think they'll sue."

How on earth could a manufacturer could sue someone else who set up a network of battery-swapping stations for future vehicles?

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Mint sauce.....

.... for the sheep posting round here.

The luddite community round here never ceases to amaze me. Incapable of thinking around a problem, just shout it out and feel all smug. FFS.

Swappable power packs have been suggested for quite a while now, but to answer the one half-decent question about potential wear and exposure to damage from siting a pack on the underside of a vehicle. The fundamental problem here is that manufacturers are still insisting on developing vehicles that remain resolutely stuck with old design practices and tacking on the electric systems. The power pack should ideally be housed within a double floor arrangement; think of it as the filler in a sandwich. This will provide better protection from damage and facilitate a better swap-out procedure as the pack would then be accessed from the side, removing the potential for accident and injury from someone driving up a ramp with a whacking great hole in it. It also means no need for a guard plate to protect the pack, and as the unit would have to fit within a defined space, it can be guided in from the outset, reducing the risk of damage to the power pack connections mating to the vehicle.

Now, try thinking about the other apparently insurmountable problems that posters on here deludedly believe make such technology impossible, and you'll realise that they're not actually so significant after all. Go on, off you go.

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