Electric Taxis will be Tested in Japan

This story was written by CNET's Martin LaMonica

Better Place will test its battery-swapping service with electric cars used as taxis in Tokyo.

The project, funded by Japanese government agencies, will use as many as four cars converted to run on batteries. The taxis will be able to swap in fresh batteries at an existing station in Tokyo.

Better Place is developing a service that will allow drivers to charge electric car batteries and to change out batteries at a network of swapping stations. It has signed partnerships to develop a number of networks, with the first expected in Israel.

The trial in Tokyo, scheduled to begin in January, will gather data on driving range and battery durability under urban driving conditions.
Better Place said Wednesday it hopes to the trial will lead to other battery-changing stations in cities.

"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," Kiyotaka Fujii, president of Better Place Japan, said in a statement.

All-electric cars will generally have a shorter range than gasoline cars--Nissan's Leaf and Coda Automotive's sedan are expected to have a roughly 100-mile range. But since many city dwellers don't have a dedicated electrical outlet outdoors, charging electric cars in urban areas can be challenging without public charging stations or battery-changing stations.

Earlier this year, Better Place successfully tested an automated car-changing station in Yokohama, Japan, where a car drives up a ramp and a machine pulls out a depleted battery, then slides in a fresh one.
By Martin LaMonica