Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Electric cars need replaceable batteries

People often say (as in this Peak Oil article) "we’re not going to run the interstate highway system on electricity alone". Why not? We currently have a gasoline-based infrastructure because it's cheap and convenient, but if it got much more expensive it shouldn't be THAT hard to switch over to an electric infrastructure. To deal with the range and recharge-time issues we just need modular replaceable batteries.

Imagine you have a battery-powered car with, say, a 100 mile range. Normally you charge it each night at home and possibly "top off" while at work, but this weekend you want to drive 400 miles straight. So you pull into a "Duracell" station several times along the way and swap out your mostly-used batteries for some freshly charged ones. The battery keeps track of how many times it's been charged and how long it holds a charge; the station charges you a little extra if they give you a newer battery, credits you a little if they give you an older one, and dings you for the cost of the power and physical space it takes to fill a battery pack, however long that takes. They dock your used battery in a charger and swap it with somebody else 12 hours later when it's full.

Tah dah! Electric cars now have unlimited range. The batteries get charged at the station via solar and nuclear; gas is no longer involved.

[I originally posted this in a comment thread at the Mises Blog; some seemed to think it was an exciting and original idea rather than - as I would have expected - a boring and obvious one. A little more googling found this electric bus system doing something similar:
The discharged zinc-air module removed from the vehicle is "refueled" or mechanically recharged by exchanging spent "cassettes" with fresh cassettes. This is accomplished by a refueling machine that returns the zinc-air modules to service.


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