Better Place, a Better Paradigm

I recently discovered that my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law works for Better Place (I bet there is a specific word for sister-in-law’s brother-in-law in a language that has more respect for family than English!)  I had always been interested in the concept of switching rather than recharging batteries. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Why recharge a battery for a many hours, breaking a long journey, when you can go to a drive through and swap it for a charged one in minutes?  Good-bye range anxiety.

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So I got on the phone with him and learned there is even more to it than I had realized.

Firstly the model includes recharging at home for daily use. Switching out is mainly for longer journeys.

But what I also learned that was new to me is that the customer buys the vehicle and can buy the necessary power up front. The battery itself remains the asset of Better Place and the energy provision is the responsibility of Better Place.  So the energy used by the charging station at home doesn’t appear on the owner’s bill. Instead it is taken care of as part of an arrangement Better Place has direct with the energy company.

’So what?’ you might ask.  The ‘so what’ is that this changes the paradigm, and I love paradigm change.

The model gives Better Place the potential to consolidate the energy needs of all their customers and then negotiate deals with the energy company that balances that demand at a mass scale with the renewable energy available.

Better Place runs a global network control center that knows the state of charge of all their vehicles (enabled of course by information communications technology!)

They can control when during the parked hours the vehicles are recharged.   The stock of batteries in the cars and at the switching stations can even be used as a localized power source. During the day, excess wind energy that was produced the night before can be sold back to the grid.

Certainly it seems to me that the model of switching batteries is far more attractive for the consumer than recharge only. Only time will tell, but most intriguing is the model of Better Place owning the energy supply enabling them to integrate transport energy supply and demand.

More potential it seems to me, than hoping for a breakthrough in battery technology.

Thanks to Jonathan Album, Global Marketing Manager – Better Place, for taking the time to explain their model to me.  However the words, interpretation, and any errors, are my own.

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