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USA: Better Place Electric-Car Battery Swapping: Live Report

Alongside its fully integrated smart-grid network of charging stations, battery packs and cars, Better Place is best known for its concept of battery swap stations, where cars fitted with appropriate battery packs can exchange a discharged pack for a fully-charged one in less time than it takes to fill up an average car with gasoline.

But does the technology work? How does battery swapping work, and what’s it like to drive through a battery swap station?

To find out, we were invited to Israel, where Better Place is in the finishing stages of testing 40 battery swap stations which it hopes will turn Israelis away from gasoline and onto electric cars forever.

Better Place Route Map
After a morning’s briefing on Better Place and its business and technological underpinnings, we were given the chance to drive one of the tens of thousands of Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars that Better Place hopes will soon be driving throughout Israel.

Our destination? A battery swap station, designed to highlight the convenience and user-friendly experience of Better Place battery swaps first-hand.

To simulate a long drive, we headed west from our hotel in Jerusalem, over the mountains that lie to the south-west of the city, finally heading north to an industrial park just outside the Modi’in, a Haredi Israeli city just outside the West Bank.

There, Better Place allowed us to try out several battery swap cycles in our car, and gave us a tour of the battery swap station.

Next week, we’ll give you more insight into the technology behind the battery swap, but for now, we’re going to focus on the experience of battery swapping.

Arriving with around 50 percent remaining charge, we pulled into the swap station to be greeted by a member of Better Place staff.
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