A few days ago, Better Place electric car company sent out the press release. The Israeli-US company launched its electric taxis in Tokyo, Japan. The pilot will be small, with only 4 taxis which will replace their batteries, over time, with Better Place’s battery-switch system. Taking about 2 minutes to switch, this kind of solution is needed since taxis are in operation all day long and don’t have time to plugin and recharge the traditional way.
“Charging spots are not a realistic option for taxis that need to be on the go all day long,” Better Place CEO Shai Agassi said from Tokyo, during a conference call. The pilot project will last 3 months and is currently being funded by the Japanese government. Similar tests on taxis will be part of the pilot tests done in Israel later this year, Agassi (pictured below) said.
We’ve already reported Better Place’s business with China’s Chery Automobile, the country’s largest independent auto manufacturer. The two will collaborate on building new electric cars and technology.
As for the launch in Japan earlier this week, Kiyotaka Fujii, president of Better Place Japan writes:
“There have already been attempts to electrify taxis in Japan via fixed-battery EVs. These efforts have not taken off because of the fundamental limitations of EV range: after driving for half a day, the taxis have to be retired for their batteries to either cool or recharge. Given this limitation, you simply can’t make a business model around a fixed-battery taxi.
“This is why we are introducing switchable-battery electric taxis into the marketplace today. The taxis developed for this demonstration are able to drive through our battery switch station, exchanging a depleted battery for a fully charged one in less time than it takes to fill a tank with fuel. This allows the EVs to run continuously, which is an absolute necessity for taxis.”
As of April 25, there are now switchable-battery electric taxis transporting people around Tokyo. This is a major accomplishment in terms of promoting environmental sustainability, reports the company, and also demonstrates how electric taxis can be made economical (and, therefore, sustainable) in the long run.
Hopefully, we say optimistically.
Some while back, Turkey talked about implementing hybrid electric buses into its network, and Israel hybrid taxis. There was no follow up. Let’s wait to see if Better Place can make it work.