Future Idea: Battery Replacement for Cars

Another idea that I had foresight in was how battery powered vehicles would “refuel”. Recently, Tokyo had a battery replacement system installed, and a few electric taxis were able to beta test it.

Here is a piece of the article from Tech ON:

In the test, the company uses three EVs as taxis. And it disclosed a battery replacement station built in Tokyo. Three batteries are available at the station. When a taxi comes to the station, its battery will be replaced in about a minute.

In November of 2008, I wrote a post on a science fiction blog that I was running called Future Idea: Battery Powered Vehicles. The following is the full text of my post.

Currently, a major complaint of electric vehicles is range. Despite the range increasing year over year, people still feel limited as the recharge time for most electric vehicles is measured in hours, and this “scares” people.

Instead of recharging all of the time, make a percentage of the battery system user serviceable at a switch station.

Much like a gas station today, people drive up and use it to power up their vehicle quickly. A person puts their empty or near empty battery in, and receives a fully charged battery back. Battery replacements would have to provide around 40-50 miles, at a cost of around $10-$20 per replacement, a price comparable to fueling up a car with gasoline today.

Create vehicles where people are able to replace up to three battery cells to give around 120-150 miles at price between $30 and $60. Each “cell” should weigh around 10-20 pounds, so stations will require attendants able to help switch out power cells for those that can’t.

This is a helpful idea because then you don’t have to worry as much about the degradation of the battery cell and it allows people to extend their range nearly infinitely. Stations and battery production companies profit because they are selling the fully charged batteries at a price higher than the energy cost to recharge them.

Every battery put into the switch station is tested, batteries at a quality / max capacity of 80% or higher get recharged for distribution. Those under the 80% quality, get flagged for pickup and are reconditioned. If unable to recondition, it is sent to recycling or use for other needs.

Owners can also plug in and recharge at home, which is much cheaper, but is limited to the normal maximum range of 250 miles. Even without the three user serviceable cells, the car can charge up to a maximum range of 100 miles.

The battery and car connections would have to be standardized much like how they plan to do with hydrogen power distribution and usage in engines.

Since most people will most likely only need a daily range of under 100 miles, it will “hopefully” be rare for the average consumer to need to switch. Going to a switch station will be for those with longer commutes or going on longer trips.

Current gas stations could quickly be converted to switch stations by replacing the pumps with replacement and charging stations, as well as removing the underground gasoline tank. As a transitionary period, one “switch” pump could be placed at each major gas station. This would require large commitments from both the auto makers and the energy companies as distribution, reconditioning, building and recycling would require a large investment from them, as solid batteries are not similar to gasoline or hydrogen at all.

As a users battery naturally degrades, instead of “buying” a new one, they can bring it to a switch station and replace it. The main battery will still need to be replaced every two or three years, depending on the number of cycles used over that period of time, but it shouldn’t cost more than $300-$500. You would want to do this to keep the maximum range of your vehicle as high as possible, but someone with very little income could depend entirely on the switch batteries.

Vehicles should be developed in such a way to use very little power. OLED displays and gauges, non-electric windows and locks. Solar roof to trickle charge the battery system. Anything to cut back on weight, battery power usage, and whatnot while continuing to give most of the creature comforts that people need, like air conditioning, powerful heating systems, and smart cruise control.

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