Better Place, based in Palo Alto, California, has gotten the green light from the Japanese government to move forward on installing its battery swap stations for use by Tokyo’s taxi fleet. The company said it has received an undisclosed financial investment from the Japanese government for its “Tokyo pilot project,” which is intended to validate the feasibility of the battery swap stations by installing switchable batteries into the world’s first four completely electric taxis.
According to the company, they will partner with Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu, for the project that was commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Natural Resources and Energy Agency. The project is slated to begin in January 2010 and is a direct result of the successful battery switch demonstration earlier this year in Yokohama.
Kiyotaka Fujii, President of Better Place Japan and head of business development for Asia Pacific said in a company press statement, “Japan continues to be a leader in automotive engineering and innovation, and the government’s funding of Better Place for the world’s first battery switchable electric taxis is a testament to the country’s commitment to sustainable transportation. This puts the Better Place battery switch system to use in a real-world application involving heavy-use vehicles that drive much more than the average passenger car. It also enables us to begin to convert taxis to clean, zero emission transportation.”
While taxis only represent 2 percent of all passenger cars on the road in Japan, they emit nearly 20 percent of all CO2 emissions. Today, there are close to 60,000 taxis in operation–more than in New York, Hong Kong or Paris. The results of the pilot program will determine further opportunities in other urban centers both in Japan and other countries. In addition, the company says that success of this program will demonstrate the technology in a heavy use environment and help ensure the technology is mass marketed.
The electric taxi pilot program will showcase the everyday use applications of the Better Place model, and will involve the construction of a Better Place battery switch site at a location in the Roppongi Hills area in Central Tokyo. Initially four newly modified and fully operational electric taxis will be operating from an existing taxi lane for environmentally-friendly vehicles at the Roppongi Hills complex.
Tokyo R&D Co. has been contracted by Better Place to supply the EVs, based on commercially available vehicles, with the necessary battery latch mechanisms and switchable batteries. Tokyo R&D also will be involved with building the battery switch site and provide diagnostic software for the pilot program.
The vehicles will be put into standard taxi service by the Nihon Kotsu taxi company. Battery switching duration, vehicle range, and battery resistance to degradation will be tested under actual operating conditions.
The company is confident that a successful outcome of the Tokyo taxi pilot program will bring Better Place one step closer to delivering a cleaner and more convenient refueling experience for drivers worldwide.