In my opinion, it makes the most sense to start out by electrifying government and public transit vehicles prior to private corporations entering the electric car market. First off, the government should at least try to be efficient. Also, the way bus routes are set up, the limited range of electric vehicles wouldn’t be much of a problem as charging points could be set up along the way.
In this vein, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the parent company of Mitsubishi Motors, is in the planning stages of an experiment with swappable battery electric buses in Japan. Makes sense to me!
Local, state, and the Federal governments literally spend billions of dollars fueling and maintaining the throngs of vehicles, large and small, that help the government operate. Buses in particular suck up their fair share of resources. They are big, heavy, smoggy, and while efficient in terms of fuel-per-passenger, they still put plenty of pollution into the air without ever leaving their route. Many cities and countries have experimented with electric buses with positive results. Electric buses make sense because they don’t have to travel far, and they follow the same path day in and day out, meaning charging points can be easily planned. But there is still the pesky matter of charging those batteries.
A large battery can take as long as eight hours or more to charge. While there have been improvements in fast-charging technology, even 30 minutes is a long time to take a bus off of its route. But battery swapping stations could bring a bus back up to full charge in less than five minutes. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has not released any details of its experimental plan, which will be implemented in Tokyo, Japan. But a few battery swapping stations dotted across the city and a few specially equipped buses could make a big difference.
Mitsubishi isn’t the only company working on battery swapping stations. Electric car company Better Place unveiled its battery swapping station (pictured above) last year. They say their $500,000 system will take less time to swap out a battery than it takes to fill up a tank of gas. How big a tank of gas, they did not say.
Replacing today’s dirty, smelly, loud buses with a quiet, smooth ride would win a lot of converts. Plus, electricity is cheaper (though not necessarily cleaner, depending on the source) than gas, saving the government money. I just wish they had started this oh, twenty years ago.