China has big plans for the electrification of its cars. After spending a whole day at Beijing’s airport a week ago, waiting for the smog (not the “fog” as it was officially called) to clear, all I can say: “Get on with it.” (Unless the electrification results in more smoke-belching coal-fired powerplants.) Better Place, the company that wants to swap the battery in your EV in the same time it would take to pour gas in your car, always wanted to have a piece of the Chinese action. Now, at least there is a first step into China. Today, China’s Southern Power Grid (CSG) and Better Place opened their “Switchable Electric Car Experience Center” in China’s southern city of Guangzhou.
According to a Better Place release, CSG is part of a “government-led but enterprise-guided” approach to providing energy for EVs:
“The company’s strategy has battery switch at its core combined with centralized EV charging. CSG will promote the development of national technical standards and build a smart EV network. CSG has signed EV infrastructure agreements with Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, and other provinces. The company has also signed similar cooperative agreements with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanning, Haikou, and other cities.”
Nevertheless, it will be a while until you can drive into a station in China’s south, yell “switch ‘er out” (in Chinese,) and head for the bathroom while your car is fitted a fully charged battery faster than your hands will dry.
The biggest obstacle is that currently, you have a hard time buying an electric vehicle in China at retail, and don’t even think of getting one with switchable battery technology. Asked whether Better Place has a contract with a manufacturer in China, Better Place spokesman John Proctor says:
However, Proctor reports that there is great interest in the technology amongst China’s automakers. He hopes that the center will “help raise additional interest amongst other players in China.”