Tokyo, Japan, wants to be the capital of electric vehicles. And it looks like they might have a good start. This spring, the country put three changeable-battery operated vehicles on the road for a test drive.
The 90-day program is a joint project between Japan’s Energy Agency and Better Place, a US firm specializing in providing electric vehicle infrastructure. The newly designed taxis, based on the Nissan Dualis, operate on a battery that is designed to be removed and swapped for a fresh battery each time the car needs a charge.
A fully charged battery is installed in the vehicle at a battery stop station and away the driver goes, until the next time the car needs a new charge. The whole process takes about 90 seconds––roughly equal to a NASCAR pit stop.
For consumers, the drawback of battery operated cars has always been the inconvenience of frequent stops to recharge. For manufacturers, standardization of battery size and placement has impeded better battery technology. With the new Tokyo taxi, battery technology has become both convenient and cost effective.
Traditional Tokyo taxis can rack up about 187 miles each day, according to Kiyotaka Fujii, president of the Japanese unit of Better Place. Improved battery technology can help lower operating cost significantly, as well as reducing carbon emissions, making the program attractive to government and citizen alike.
Tokyo is one of the world’s largest taxi markets, with more than 60,000 cabs on the road each day. And while taxis represent only 2% of all passenger vehicles in Tokyo, they account for about 20% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from vehicles annually.
The Japanese taxi program proves that there is a battery operated car solution that could make both car manufacturers and consumers happy. And even though the translation from battery-taxi to private vehicle may take a little while, I’m sure we’ll get there. In the mean time… taxi anyone?!