After a too-long absence from writing for Rhombus, I find it fitting to come back with an article that was inspired via request by another Rhombus contributor, a one Mr. J. Petersen, who sent me a link to a company called Better Place.
Simply put, Better Place is a company trying to do for the auto industry what has long been a pipe-dream for every clean-energy, clean-car nut since the ’60s, by making electric cars/vehicles a viable mode of transportation. Not being a stranger to this idea, I already had a lot of objections that needed answering before I believed these guys were serious and not just some sloppy start up.
It should be noted that electric cars have already been shown to work — the engineering isn’t anything new. But there are several major hurdles this technology must overcome to make it into reality, and it seems Better Place has the answers. At least, that’s what they want you to think.
Instead of focusing on these hurdles, which would make this a very lengthy article, I will sum it up and leave a lot of the details out. Range, infrastructure, standardization, peak charging times and the power used to charge the vehicles have always provided a conglomerate of problems, but Better Place has addressed these issues, if in a simplistic manner.
To combat those long hauls of over 100-200 miles, Better Place envisions simple battery swapping stations. Creating the many charging stations that could be used seems to be as simple as running power lines into their prefabricated charge points. They’re also working with the ISO and IEC, both big names when it comes to standardizing. Utilizing smart networks and grids, much like what Google is trying to do with PowerMeter, will ease any fiascos during a peak charge time. Better Place is even pushing for the adoption of alternative power sources for all our electric needs.
Of course, no new venture is perfect — it will have flaws and foibles, but if the end result will be something greater than before, it should go to reason we (as progressive individuals that want a better life for ourselves and future generations) should do nothing but endorse and empower those seeking this end result. That’s why, despite the many technical and nit-picky problems I see, Better Place will have a consumer in me as soon as we come together.
While it is still a small, fledgling company, this forward-looking corporation has its aims set high and their goals appear to be nothing but the brightest. It will be years before we see anything of real substance from Better Place — or even if it will survive these hard economic times to make a lasting impression on the automobile industry.
Jon Schwarzmann is a technology correspondent for Rhombus.
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