Sunday, February 10, 2013

electric cars and the refueling time problem

in the middle of this article about electric cars in the netherlands is this bit about the time it takes to refuel an electric car:
Charging at home uses low voltage and takes four to eight hours. New high-voltage rapid charging stations give an 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes, but they are costly to install and still rare.
unless those charge times get a lot better, i don't see how a fully electric vehicle can compete with a gasoline engine, even if we assume that charging stations become as common as gas stations. putting gas in a car takes maybe about 2-3 minutes. if even the "rapid charge" models take ten times that long, the inconvenience of a fully electric vehicle is going to trump other pro-electric incentives.

isn't a better model having removable swappable batteries? instead of having cars drive up and plug in, the charging stations could have a stack of fully charged batteries waiting for customers. the customer would come in, hand over the nearly empty battery that he or she drove in on and would be given a fully charged battery in exchange. the customer could pop in the charged battery and drive off. then the charging station would charge the battery that was turned in, and 30 minutes later put in in the pile of fully charged batteries. by then the customer could already be far away (or at least as far as you can get in 25 minutes).

i guess there are some disadvantages to this model. not all batteries are equal. older batteries do not hold a charge as well as newer ones do. so there's always the danger that people would unload their dud batteries at the station in exchange for better ones. and maybe there's a practical problem with creating the removable swappable battery. the batteries would have to be relatively lightweight, small, and accessible to the driver to allow swappability. i'm no engineer and i have no idea what is required for a battery capable of powering an electric car with any kind of reasonable range before charging. maybe the model i'm thinking of isn't practically possible. i just wonder if anyone else has thought of it.