It didn’t go 1,170 miles (1,886 kilometers) in 24 hours without stopping, but for an electric car, it’s still a mighty impressive distance — the equivalent of a mad dash from Seattle to Orange County, Calif. The Aussie consortium that pulled it off saw this unofficial EV world record as confirmation of their homegrown vehicle’s capabilities. You might also call it a pretty interesting argument for battery swapping as the answer to the EV charging challenge.

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The driving in question was 15 and a half times around a 75.6-mile loop on public roads between Port Melbourne and Geelong, in Victoria, in a Holden Commodore EV developed by EV Engineering, which calls itself a “a consortium of Australian automotive suppliers and industry participants that has designed and built seven proof-of-concept electric Holden Commodores.” Holden is the GM subsidiary in Australia. The Commodore had a run of 15 consecutive years as Australia’s best-selling automobile model broken just last year.

The key to the success, the group said, was the use of battery swapping, where an EV designed for the procedure can in a matter of a couple of minutes have its depleted battery replaced by a charged one. Even the fastest charging stations, those that can deliver virtually a full charge in 30 minutes, can’t come close to that.

On the flip side, a swapping station is a much more expensive investment, costing around $500,000 while a fast-charging station is in the range of $25,000 to $40,000.

“When we began the project to develop a proof-of-concept electric Commodore, it was critical that we incorporate ground-breaking battery switch technology,” Ian McLeave, CEO of EV Engineering, said in a statement. “That’s what got us across the line. We were able to quickly switch our depleted battery for a fully charged one, so we didn’t have to park and plug in in order to recharge. We were able to just drive, switch, and keep going.”

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In the U.S., the auto industry and EV charging infrastructure development are almost exclusively focused on plug-in charging. But Australia is set to become the third market – after Israel and Denmark — for the battery switching company Better Place. According to EV Engineering, the Holden Commodore EV used “a scaled-down version” of the switch stations that will come to Australia. When the car got a fresh battery at the end of each loop, there was usually 20 to 25 percent battery charge remaining, indicating the vehicle could have gone at least 90 miles before running out of juice.

Members of the EV Engineering project include Better Place and automotive component suppliers Bosch, Continental, Air International and Futuris, with support from the government-backed research agency CSIRO.

If you haven’t seen the Better Place battery switching technology in operation, be sure to check out this demo from the company. It’s pretty smooth:

 

Pete Danko

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and was republished with permission.

Comments

  1. John
    PA
    February 26, 2015, 6:41 am

    One benefit of battery swapping might be on the economic side. If I understand correctly, part of the reason electric cars are as expensive as they are is because the battery cost so much. But with battery swapping, you don’t really need to include the cost of the battery with the cost of the car. Instead the car makers can recoup the cost of the battery by charging a fee each time the battery is swapped.

    Also, the demographic in the USA that is most likely to want to purchase an electric vehicle is the urban demographic. And a large percentage of the urban demographic can not plug in their car at home because they only have curb-side parking. I would love to see the battery swapping system tried in NY city or San Francisco.

    And I don’t think you can underestimate the value of the convenience of sitting in your car and having a machine “fill-up your tank” in a matter of minutes (no more standing outside in sup-freezing temperatures with a stinky gas nozzle in hand). On the other hand, we are already expected to pump our own gas; maybe the infrastructure would be a little less expensive if the consumer is able do some of the work. Maybe the battery could be broken down into manageable components that the consumer can replace. I am imagining placing 20 spent electric drill-like batteries in a vending machine and getting 20 fresh batteries to snap into place.

  2. usedtogo
    ca
    August 28, 2012, 8:48 pm

    It is a great idea. But great ideas do not guaruntee success.
    The method shown screams for standards within all makes and models. Not to mention the enormous amount of space that would be required to service , say 1,000 vehicles per day. But it is an option to explore.
    could they make it a car wash at the same time? ( . v . )

  3. skeptic
    USA
    August 28, 2012, 10:08 am

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for this technology and I’m impressed at idea of swapping batteries rather than sitting at a charging station for 30 minutes of every 60 – 90 minutes of travel time. However, does this mean that every car company has to have their own swapping stations? Spaced no more than 75 miles apart over the entire country? Not feasible. The distance requirement makes it unfeasible even if one type station would swap batteries on every kind of electric car. The need for different stations for different cars makes it more so.

    The automated nature of this station means that it likely will work only for that model of car. What happens when the design of the car changes slightly? Do they propose to mandate that all electric cars use exactly the same design?

    What about long-distance travel? It’s nice that swapping a battery (as in this example) can take less time than filling up with gas, but it’s every 75 – 90 miles rather than every 400 – 500 miles! Quite a difference and all that stopping would make long-distance travel extremely onerous. (Not to mention the need for swapping or recharging stations located virtually everywhere.)

    The value of electric cars is for short-distance, in-town use where they can be recharged overnight or at work– and in that context, swapping isn’t necessary. Electric cars simply will not work for long-distance travel– at least not with their current limitations.

    I drive a hybrid rather than an electric car for these reasons.