Better Place and their plans for the electric car

Switched on Highways

Saw this in last week’s edition of Newsweek magazine. It is a very ambitious plan to set up a completely new infrastructure for electric cars, from the ground up, and thereby making them more attractive than hybrids or gasoline engines.

He has some interesting quotes and expectations/changes. The first expectation is that he’ll get significant governmental support from Israel, Denmark and California. California may be out of the running due to a 40 + billion dollar deficit but there are already test systems going to Israel and Denmark this year.

The next is that he can split the ownership of the car and battery, so that you go a station and just swap out batteries with one they have. This would make it easier for consumers to transfer over knowing they won’t have to invest in a battery only to have it be outdated a few weeks later.

The third is that Moore’s law for batteries continues at 8 - 10% improvement per year. He wants to start this project soon to provide more incentive for manufacturers to build better batteries.

The fourth is that they can make a new business model work. Here is the quote below:

If he can get this to work it could be a prime example of initiative to get us off foreign oil, like the pledge that President Obama made. It would also be a boon for the providers of electricity, especially renewable. Any thoughts?

I wonder why there couldn’t be sections of highway with overhead infrastructure which electric cars could tap into while traveling for recharging purposes. Maybe some sort of ring-shaped, induction charging apparatus which wouldn’t require physical contact. That way the time spent in traveling would double as recharging time, eliminating any down time for waits at public recharging stations or the requirement for every consumer to own recharging apparatus.

The only thing I can think of, other than the cost for building that, is that it isn’t good to try and charge a battery while using it. I know with traditional car batteries they are recharged while driving, but they aren’t the primary source of propulsion. Also the hybrid cars recharge the battery due to friction of braking and then run off battery power while stopped. Other than that, I can’t think of many instances where you are trying to run something while charging it, except with a laptop battery.

The downsides with doing that are you are going to permanently damage the capacity of the battery. After a while it doesn’t hold the same amount or length of charge. I’m not exactly sure how fast you can charge the battery safely, since you’ll have to charge faster than it discharges to run the engine.

It’s a very interesting idea though spook. I’ll have to read up on that. I always turn off things when charging the battery out of habit, but I wonder if it matters?