26/04/2010 09:40

World’s first electric taxi station to use Better Place cars, battery-switch apparatus.

Electric car infrastructure innovator Better Place will unveil the world’s first electric taxi station on Monday in Tokyo.

The four-taxi station will use electric cars and Better Place’s battery-switch apparatus.

The firm has reduced the time it takes to switch a battery to under a minute once the car is in place. The whole battery-switch procedure takes about two minutes – less than it takes to fill a car with gasoline.

“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 with Israeli reporters on Sunday afternoon.

The three-month trial project is being funded by the government of Japan.

Taxis are ideal for conversion to electric cars, Agassi said, as they travel a lot but only within cities, where battery-switch stations can be easily accessible.

Taxis would also be part of tests here in Israel during the latter half of the year, he said.

Meanwhile, Better Place on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding with Chery Automobile, China’s largest independent auto manufacturer. The companies will collaborate on building electric vehicles and the charging technology for them.

“With only two percent of China’s population owning cars and 80% of sales in 2009 to first-time car buyers, China has the opportunity to create and lead an entirely new category around clean transportation,” said Dan Cohen, vice president of strategic initiatives for Better Place.

“With the scale of Chery’s design-and-manufacturing capability and an industrial policy that favors EV [electric vehicles] over ICE [internal combustion engines], we believe China represents an unprecedented opportunity for Better Place. Our collaboration with Chery is just the beginning for Better Place in China,” Cohen said.

“Chery has been a pioneer in EV technology since 2001,” Chery Vice President Dr. Yuan said. “We’ve closely followed Better Place for nearly two years and believe that our collaboration offers both companies the potential to lead the EV market in China and beyond.”

China has set an industrial policy with the objective of becoming the largest EV developer and manufacturer in the world, enabling the country to leapfrog internal combustion engine technology and go straight to electric transport.

China is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil behind the US, which historically has led the ICE vehicle market, and ahead of Japan, the leader in hybrid technology.

By 2020, China is expected to rely on imports for 65% of its oil.

Agassi clarified that Better Place would not become the Israeli importer of Chery cars. Rather, the collaboration would be solely on the domestic Chinese front.