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Renault is currently testing prototypes from their upcoming electric vehicle range in Israel, with a view to selling them in the country by next year.
The vehicles, known as the Renault Fluence Z.E. (for zero emissions), look just like normal Renault Fluence sedans, but run solely on electric power.
At first glance, Israel may seem like a strange place to focus EV efforts on, but it makes perfect sense upon closer examination. For starters, the, ahem, geopolitical concerns regarding the country and its petroleum-producing neighbors means that energy independence is crucial for the 7.3 million strong nation. With expensive gas and short driving distances (the entire country is about the size of New Jersey), Israel is also a great test bed for the Better Place battery-swapping stations invented in Israel in partnership with Renault. For those not near a battery-swap station, charging can take as little as 30 minutes or as long as 8 hours depending on charging equipment.
The future is nearly here. Better Place, a company devoted to developing rapid battery swap systems, will have its first station on-line by May 2010. According to Green Car Advisor, the first Tokyo station will serve Nihon Kotsu, one of the city’s largest taxi firms.
“These taxis average about 300 kilometers [186 miles] a day each, so that’s three battery exchanges for each taxi each day,” said Better Place spokeswoman Julie Mullins. “It will be a 24/7 test of the system.”
This news is significant, as Better Place has agreements to supply infrastructure to a number of countries and regions around the world, including Ontario, Canada; Denmark; Australia; Hawaii; Northern California; Japan, and Israel. Denmark and Israel will be the first countries with a full Better Place battery swap network, in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
“But,” you say, “there aren’t any vehicles on-sale that support such a technology.”
You’d be right, although the Renault Fluence ZE pictured above will be the first vehicle to support the Better Place system. Since Renault and Nissan are essentially the same company, expect to see the first vehicles in North America to support battery swapping to come from Nissan. Unfortunately, the upcoming (on-sale in August) Leaf all-electric car does not support battery swapping.
See a demo of the Better Place system after the jump: