Canberra makes WIRED

johnboy 22 June 2011 26

better place swap station

It’s a rare day when Canberra makes it into WIRED (the Vogue of nerds), but the Better Place electric car rollout has made the grade:

Swappable batteries arrive in Australia next year in a slick electric sedan built by Renault.

The French automaker will introduce the Renault Fluence Z.E. to Canberra, where Silicon Valley startup Better Place is rolling out the battery swap stations and public charging infrastructure needed to keep the cars going. It’s another big step forward for the two companies and their aggressive plans to electrify transportation.

Apparently we’ll see the swap stations in town later this year.


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26 Responses to Canberra makes WIRED
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triffid triffid 4:30 pm 23 Jun 11

Kath said :

Ideally people get the engine ripped out of their old vehicles and have a conversion done rather than waste money and resources on new electric cars.

I wish it was as easy as that, Kath, but it isn’t. For instance, almost any conversion along the lines you suggest will realise a significant redistribution of mass around the vehicle. Sure . . . you might be taking 120-odd kgs of engine and transmission out of the front and replacing it with 60 or so kgs of electric motor, and ditching things like fuel tanks and exhaust systems, but then you’re looking at positioning about 150 – 200 kgs (maybe nore) of batteries somewhere else (in the boot / back seat?).

The potential to radically upset the ‘balance’ of the vehicle due to the resulting inappropriate spring / damper rates at each end of the vehicle, or brake bias distribution, or stub axle durabilty is a very real primary safety issue. As are issues such as what that level of modification does to the ‘collision worthiness’ of the vehicle. Even some of the most hard-core / die hard exponents of EVs that I regularly encounter suggest that converted vehicles perhaps really ought to be considered in a similar manner as individually constructed vehicles (ICVs). In short . . . fully engineer approved and certified with a raft of holistic modifications to address the sort of issues outlined above (not cheap or easy to attain).

sumarai sumarai 3:18 pm 23 Jun 11

I subscribe to WIRED… didn’t think I was a nerd though 😀

Kath Kath 2:46 pm 23 Jun 11

Ideally people get the engine ripped out of their old vehicles and have a conversion done rather than waste money and resources on new electric cars.

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 6:22 am 23 Jun 11

What real advantage is there to electric cars with these things to consider
1. Realistically, where is the power coming from? Coal fired power stations. All our green power makes a small percentage of the production and is already being used by the “green” consumers. You can’t sell it more than once.
2. Electrical infrastructure is already suffering “Sydney’s transformer fires in summer, etc.” so with more and more electric cars sucking our system dry, what are the chances we have more blackouts and system failures? The grid needs to be brought up to scratch before any of this is a real world solution.
3. Diesel is nearly as clean with more range. You can’t take an electric car out of Canberra or the towys will make a killing bringing you new batteries to get you home.
4. And what of the life cycle of the “fuel cells”. Anyone out there got more than 5 years from their cordless drill batteries? The replacement cost is outrageous. Just like solar PV, ridiculously expensive way to do things.
Bring on the power of the atom – hydrogen. Better still, get the blueprints to the car that runs on water – the U.S government has had that for years, but won’t use it to help the environment because of the global problems associated with the crash of the oil producing nations.

chris_underscore chris_underscore 9:54 pm 22 Jun 11

dungfungus said :

chris_underscore said :

Actually dungfungus, you’re wrong. The EV technology is rapidly improving, search the Renault Fluence Z.E in google, does that look like a tiny smart car?

And what do you mean the average means of Australian families? Australia is a highly car dependent society, especially chaos. As petrol prices continue to rise this is going to greatly affect the current Australian way of life. Living 30km away from your place of business in the outer suburbs will become alot more costly. So this is one of the most important topics for any political agenda, security of future transportation.

Some of us believe in progressing beyond our primitive thirst for oil (which is a finite resource), seems like you’re living in an ignorant bliss.

I would class an average Australian family as 2 adults and 2 children. Don’t understand your use of “chaos” though.
I tried a new Renault Fluence for size a few weeks ago and it had less leg room than the incredibly fuel efficient Megane sedan it is replacing – anyone above average size will not be comfortable. I enquired about about availability a Renault EV (Renault own Nissan) and they said Renault had nothing in the pipeline. It looks like a well timed publicity stunt. The Fluence is a lot smaller than a Camry and Toyota are currently flogging the Camry hybrid for $35K to get rid of them. Doesn’t matter where you live in Canberra because if you commute to work by any car (petrol/hybrid/electric) you are going to have trouble parking it. I may live in ignorant bliss (does that term apply to anyone who doesn’t agree with you?) but I don’t expect that EVs will not become viable in Australia until the price drops dramatically.
Then again, we have a government that will throw a lot of taxpayer funded subsidies at projects that are “green” so, who knows?

Nah, it’s not so much people that do not agree with my opinion, rather that term refers to people that fail to acknowledge factual statements.

About the car parking situation, the only solution would be to invest heavily in public transport, but sadly Canberra spreads out to an area the same size of London, but with a twentieth of the population, thus the importance of individual ownership of the automobile. The sprawling outer suburbs are screwed for the future.

hax hax 6:15 pm 22 Jun 11

dungfungus said :

The one thing all this new fangled EVs have in common is that they are tiny (like those Smart ones)
This severely limits their market potential to wealthy, vertically challenged greenies who only have to travel short (no pun intended) distances. As usual, the needs of an average Australian family have been left off the agenda, not that they would want to fork out the sort of money being asked.

So you’re just pointing out the obvious? Or are you saying that if it can’t be done overnight and instantly affordable to all, then it can’t / shouldn’t be done at all??

dungfungus said :

There is plenty of petrol left in the world still.

Sure, why not. Let’s wait until it actually IS all gone before we scramble helplessly to change everything overnight. That will be great for families (and other assorted human beings)

Dr Strange Dr Strange 5:44 pm 22 Jun 11

Project sounds more like engineering testing in the real world (a car is just a big long-range golf cart). Good luck to them though. Fantastic if it works as advertised and at a reasonable cost. But I wouldn’t have any doubts this type of EV technology will improve rapidly even if its not ready for everybody or every situation in 10 years.

John Moulis John Moulis 5:31 pm 22 Jun 11

How much does the extension cord cost?

creative_canberran creative_canberran 5:02 pm 22 Jun 11

lol Renault. A car company well known for having dodgy electrics in their vehicles. This is such utter greenwashing.

triffid triffid 3:51 pm 22 Jun 11

Classified said :

So how many AA batteries do these suckers take? Also, where do I buy a battery charger with enough slots to charge them all? My old Jet Hopper battery charger only had enough slots to do 8 at a time.

he he

Think mobile ‘phone batteries. Now imagine around 4000 to 5000 of them all ‘wired up’ into a battery ‘unit’. That’s a lot of ‘phone chargers. Don’t think that Jet Hopper charger is gunna cut the mustard, Classified.

Classified Classified 2:22 pm 22 Jun 11

triffid said :

The only way it will be comparable in the first instance will be if the ‘sale’ of the vehicle is along the lines of the ‘deal’ proposed by Renault’s sister company (Nissan) with the Leaf. That is, you ‘buy’ the car and lease the battery (or use of batteries).

So how many AA batteries do these suckers take? Also, where do I buy a battery charger with enough slots to charge them all? My old Jet Hopper battery charger only had enough slots to do 8 at a time.

triffid triffid 2:02 pm 22 Jun 11

arescarti42 said :

triffid said :

Really?

That will be news to Renault Australia, I assure you.

I’m not sure why you think that, renault.com.au currently has a big banner on its homepage with “Announcing Renault Fluence Z.E. > Find out more”.

That’s a fair call. The only other thing I can find to go by is in the FAQ section on the Renault website which basically says total cost of ownership will be comparable to an equivalent petrol car. So maybe their plan is to offset a high initial purchase price with lower running costs.

Why would I think that? Probably this:

http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/76487E44C50FCC5CCA257872000C6CDF

And, about an hour ago, I got off the ‘phone to someone who I know had asked Mr Renault Australia — and asked him less than two weeks ago — if they had any plans to bring any of their EVs to Australia and the answer recieved was, “Non”

The only way it will be comparable in the first instance will be if the ‘sale’ of the vehicle is along the lines of the ‘deal’ proposed by Renault’s sister company (Nissan) with the Leaf. That is, you ‘buy’ the car and lease the battery (or use of batteries).

As I have said elsewhere . . . I have some reasonably proximal knowledge of issues EV: and not derived as a result of 10 minutes on google either. ‘Sophistry’ is a pretty common theme in the space. As is ‘idealism’. Anyone who thinks these things will flood our roads by 2020 — or even account for as little as 10 per cent of the market by then — needs better medication (or much, much more practical experience of the world and Australian motor industry and the Australian vehicle market).

dungfungus dungfungus 1:54 pm 22 Jun 11

chris_underscore said :

Actually dungfungus, you’re wrong. The EV technology is rapidly improving, search the Renault Fluence Z.E in google, does that look like a tiny smart car?

And what do you mean the average means of Australian families? Australia is a highly car dependent society, especially chaos. As petrol prices continue to rise this is going to greatly affect the current Australian way of life. Living 30km away from your place of business in the outer suburbs will become alot more costly. So this is one of the most important topics for any political agenda, security of future transportation.

Some of us believe in progressing beyond our primitive thirst for oil (which is a finite resource), seems like you’re living in an ignorant bliss.

I would class an average Australian family as 2 adults and 2 children. Don’t understand your use of “chaos” though.
I tried a new Renault Fluence for size a few weeks ago and it had less leg room than the incredibly fuel efficient Megane sedan it is replacing – anyone above average size will not be comfortable. I enquired about about availability a Renault EV (Renault own Nissan) and they said Renault had nothing in the pipeline. It looks like a well timed publicity stunt. The Fluence is a lot smaller than a Camry and Toyota are currently flogging the Camry hybrid for $35K to get rid of them. Doesn’t matter where you live in Canberra because if you commute to work by any car (petrol/hybrid/electric) you are going to have trouble parking it. I may live in ignorant bliss (does that term apply to anyone who doesn’t agree with you?) but I don’t expect that EVs will not become viable in Australia until the price drops dramatically.
Then again, we have a government that will throw a lot of taxpayer funded subsidies at projects that are “green” so, who knows?

arescarti42 arescarti42 1:30 pm 22 Jun 11

MERC600 said :

How charming. Any figures ANYWHERE what the poor bloody local TAX payer is going to be shelling out for these things.

Close to nothing at this point I believe. From what i understand, Better Place is funding construction of the system.

arescarti42 arescarti42 1:25 pm 22 Jun 11

triffid said :

Really?

That will be news to Renault Australia, I assure you.

I’m not sure why you think that, renault.com.au currently has a big banner on its homepage with “Announcing Renault Fluence Z.E. > Find out more”.

triffid said :

My point being that the European and Israel pricing structures simply can not be used as ‘anything to go by’.

That’s a fair call. The only other thing I can find to go by is in the FAQ section on the Renault website which basically says total cost of ownership will be comparable to an equivalent petrol car. So maybe their plan is to offset a high initial purchase price with lower running costs.

MERC600 MERC600 1:21 pm 22 Jun 11

How charming. Any figures ANYWHERE what the poor bloody local TAX payer is going to be shelling out for these things.

Classified Classified 1:11 pm 22 Jun 11

Renault? Blech…

triffid triffid 1:07 pm 22 Jun 11

“The French automaker will introduce the Renault Fluence Z.E. to Canberra”

Really? That will be news to Renault Australia, I assure you.

luther_bendross luther_bendross 12:16 pm 22 Jun 11

Shai Agassi was on Lateline (I think…) a few weeks back spruiking his network in Israel and this one in Canberra. He freely admitted that EV’s were not about to overtake our reliance on fossil fuels, he just wanted to improve the world a little (hence the company name). Better place is investing left, right and centre in greener technologies.

Whilst the cynical hive mind might stike him down, I guarantee he’s doing more than the rest of us to improve the world. Good on him for doing something bout something he believes in.

Mysteryman Mysteryman 12:15 pm 22 Jun 11

Holden Caulfield said :

Mysteryman said :

So long, petrol!

Maybe, but I doubt battery power alone is a long term solution. I’d say we’ll be using more hybrids in the medium term and, possiby, hydrogen power/fuel cells longer term.

It’s a start. That’s the main thing.

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