Making Australia A Better Place  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , , , , ,

Project Better Place founder Shai Agassi was in town last week announcing that Australia will become the third country to implement the group's vision of electric vehicles powered by renewable energy, following Denmark and Israel.

Better Place and Macquarie Capital Group will raise $1 billion to build a network of 250,000 charging stations and battery exchange stations in key locations along the east coast by 2012. The network will be powered by wind turbines owned by AGL Energy.

Agassi has been promoting the plan as a way to reduce our dependence on oil (the starting premise for the project was "how do you run an entire country without oil") while creating jobs and boosting the local economy (see this interview on the Today Show for his explanation). Operating in Australia will also help the group prove it can work in large countries as well as the much smaller geographical areas covered in the first 2 rollouts. Agassi also noted that the Federal Government's $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund played a part in encouraging them to set up in Australia.



Green Car Congress describes the Better Place network as consisting of three primary components:
  • Charge points. These are to recharge car batteries. Better Place is planning a 2.5:1 ratio of charge spots to cars.

  • Battery switching stations. For trips longer than 100 miles (161 km), Better Place plans to build roadside battery switching stations. Stations are to be completely automated, and the driver’s subscription takes care of everything. The driver pulls in, and the depleted battery is replaced with a fresh one, without anyone having to leave the vehicle. The process takes less time than it does to fill a tank of liquid fuel, according to the plan.

  • Software to automate the charging and exchange process.




Better Place has a partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to provide electric cars. The prototype electric eMegane sedan features a 160+ kilometre range.



Better Place says it is committed to open network access and using industry standard, with the goal being to allow customers to have a choice of make and model of car.

Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC, a joint venture between Nissan Motor, NEC Corporation, and NEC TOKIN Corporation) and A123Systems have been identified as lithium-ion battery providers to the system.

Better Place plans to own and operate the batteries and power generation (via AGL Energy, in Australia's case), and to sell kilometres travelled to drivers on a subscription basis, in similar fashion to the mobile phone industry.



Better Place in Australia plans to start by setting up charging stations in the Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, and then connect them with "electric highways," with stations set up every 25 miles.

Overall I'm quite excited by this project - though obviously executing the plan, in terms of setting up all the infrastructure and getting a significant volume of electric cars on the market at a competitive price, will be challenging. If the 3 countries piloting the idea can demonstrate it can work successfully, it will provide a blueprint for personal transport in a post-oil world.

Cross-posted from Our Clean Energy Future.

4 comments

Hey Gav - great post!

I had been wondering why you hadn't reported on this... but such an in-depth and informative report is worth the wait:)

david
http://convenientsolutions.blogspot.com

Thanks David.

I've been a bit swamped this week so it took a while to put a post together.

The more interesting topics I try to do a decent length post on - hence the absence of all sorts of interesting news from the day to day posts while things gestate in my queue...

I guess my thing is "peak rare earths". You report on the solar PV drive in the USA, and that's great.... but how many of those Solar PV technologies are on borrowed time due to gallium being on borrowed time?

How many "peaks" can we handle at once?

This is why I tend to emphasise New Urbanism so much in my writing. If we can think bigger and build energy efficient CITIES then we will of course lower embodied energy uptake in so many unnecessary cars, powerlines, etc.

Density and diversity, quiet tramlines, local TOD shops and economic activity, and beautiful parks within 5 minutes walk of every home. Sounds good to me.

I might not need to use the 6 cylinder Mistubishi wagon as much then. ;-)

All those things you mention are good, but there are vast swathes of the country that nevertheless depend on cars and will probably never be adequately serviced by public transport due to the sheer size and low population density of the country - which is why we need electric cars as well.

As for rare earths - yes - they are a limiting factor for thin film PV and for some types of battery.

But by using a broad range of solutions (thin films use cadmium, tellurium, indium, gallium, selenium or even plain silicon sometimes - there are several variants) and by making them as efficient as possible we will be able to meet our energy needs (there aren't any meaningful limits on CSP or wind, lets face it).

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