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Australia Developing Massive Electric Vehicle Grid

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the must-avert-mad-max-at-all-costs dept.

Transportation 260

blairerickson writes "A US firm Thursday unveiled plans to build a massive one-billion-dollar charging network to power electric cars in Australia as it seeks cleaner and cheaper options to petrol. Better Place, which has built plug-in stations for electric vehicles in Israel and Denmark, has joined forces with Australian power company AGL and finance group Macquarie Capital to create an Australian network. Under the plan, the three cities will each have a network of between 200,000 and 250,000 charge stations by 2012 where drivers can plug in and power up their electric cars. The points would probably be at homes and businesses, car parks and shopping centres. In addition, 150 switch stations will be built in each city and on major freeways, where electric batteries can be automatically replaced in drive-in stations similar to a car wash." I hope they're talking to the car companies about the necessary standardization it would take to make this work, too.

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Where are they getting the power? (5, Insightful)

thogard (43403) | about 6 years ago | (#25494385)

Is this the same grid who's owners are claiming there will be rolling blackouts again this summer because they don't have enough capacity?

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 6 years ago | (#25494403)

I'll give you a hint: it's the other "n" word.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494423)

not-nuclear

Re:Where are they getting the power? (3, Insightful)

sgt_doofey (862142) | about 6 years ago | (#25494405)

Not to mention the fact that nearly all electricity in Australia is generated by coal burning power stations. Not gonna be a clean mode of transport if you factor in where the electricity is generated from.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (4, Insightful)

erikina (1112587) | about 6 years ago | (#25494455)

Which is a crying shame considering how much uranium and easy disposal options we have. Fear trumps reason again. Cue: 30 year outdated arguments..

Re:Where are they getting the power? (2, Interesting)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | about 6 years ago | (#25494833)

They don't make a profit in their lifetime?

Re:Where are they getting the power? (5, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 years ago | (#25495241)

"Which is a crying shame considering how much uranium and easy disposal options we have. Fear trumps reason again. Cue: 30 year outdated arguments.."

The point is mute because as others have pointed out TFA claims that AGL will use renewables, however I have to object to your implied conclusion that Australia should build reactors.

Australia has both huge uranium reserves AND huge renewable potential (enough to power most of SE Asia), why not sell the uranium and disposal services to other nations that don't have such an embarrasing wealth and under-utilisation of renewables? Personally I think the shame I cry over the most is how we consitently sell taxpayer funded IP for pennies, as in the case of The Sun King [sbs.com.au] . IMHO we should be selling uranium and keeping ideas, not the other way around.

The meat from the link:
"The new technology Dr Shi helped develop has now been put into commercial production at this factory near Leipzig, in Germany. But it is protected by patent - he might have helped develop it but the Sun King can't use it. Indeed the failure by Pacific Solar to commercialise the technology so disheartened Dr Shi at the time that he considered giving away research altogether and starting a restaurant or a supermarket in Sydney...[snip: but he went back home to China]...Six years later Dr Shi and his wife have transformed $6 million in seed capital into a $6 billion company. Oh, not only did we sell his invention, we even built the factory [pv-tech.org] for the Germans who are now pumping about a gigawatt of EXCESS back into the grid from rooftop PV - quite an achivement considering "sunshine" is not the first thing that comes to one's mind when they think about German weather.

And while we are at it, why do we ship ore to China to smelt with coal, why not refine the metal where it is dug up using solar thermal and "value add" to our product? Even the small quantity we smelt is done with horrendous inefficiency and still makes a profit, eg: Aluminium in the south using a purpose built coal plant but the ore is dug up under the sweltering sun in the north. To get the ore from north to south there's all this infrastructure of railraods, ports and ships. If we can automate the world's largest diamond mine to operate with a dozen staff why can't we build intergrated mine/refine/power stations that take maybe 100 people to run? Plonk it on the ore deposit and away you go.

If I had my tinfoil hat on I might think that a lot of the insanity in the economy is nothing more than a "full employment" scheme for western society.

Politics: The Greens have two problems, first their nuclear dogma directly contradicts their platform of "science based policy". Second their leader is as boring as dogshit. I'm an old fart who was an adult during the Franklin thing and I admire Brown for what he did back then, I also admire him for standing up for the rule of law in the Hicks case even though Howard neutered him by branding him a "Hick's supporter". I really DO want to hear what he has to say but his voice and his predictable dogma are like auditory valium, two sentances and I'm asleep. The last time I remember him doing anything effective was the time he got the Greens locked out of parliment while the Chineese were visting, and when I say effective I mean he was effective in convincing the nation that he's a wack-job. (Not that different to how McCain has "lost his way", once that happens your credibility is dead to the casual observer and the one-eyed dogmatists are drawn to you like flies are drawn to a turd.)

Re:Where are they getting the power? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495315)

The point is mute

Moot. [wiktionary.org]

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 years ago | (#25495401)

The point is mute

Moot

I have nothing to say about that... ;)

Re:Where are they getting the power? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495687)

Your point would not be moot if you could spell.

Good god, I can't believe the youth of today believe the line the conservatives peddle, that power sources such as nuclear can be made safe.

Do a little research, on many topics.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

iosq (1084989) | about 6 years ago | (#25494467)

I have to agree that it wont be much cleaner considering Australia's power supply. However, as the largest exporter of uranium in the world, it's not like we can't shift some power over to nuclear. Just gonna have to get the Green's to shut up for a few seconds about nuclear waste killing their precious sandalwood trees...

Re:Where are they getting the power? (3, Insightful)

erikina (1112587) | about 6 years ago | (#25494489)

Good point (about being able to painlessly shift). As for the Greens, I've stopped believing they are pro-environment but are anti-development.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (4, Interesting)

Dogsballz (1392109) | about 6 years ago | (#25495219)

I agree - however its a shame a smart aussie David Mills had to travel to the US to implement his solar technolgy. Schwarzenegger this week opened on a 5-megawatt Ausra (Australian technology) solar thermal plant near Bakersfield, California. However Ausra has also built a 1.5MW solar plant to add to the Macquarie Energy Liddell coal power station in the New South Wales Hunter Valley that has just been commissioned. Apparently there are plans to build 175MW plants in the US However given the huge uranium resources we have and how anal Australia is with regulation and safety I am still frustrated that we do not use nuclear power - it always comes down to an election issue praying on misinformed and emotionally charged voters. But hey we have millions of square kms or miles of red dirt perfect for solar plants but it all comes down to $$$ As for the electric car charging idea - I havent heard shite about that.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (0, Troll)

polar red (215081) | about 6 years ago | (#25495607)

NO. 2 very fundamental problems with nuclear : 1/not 100% safe (99.999 is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!) 2/offloading our waste onto future generations.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

Techman83 (949264) | about 6 years ago | (#25494749)

Didn't one of the former out speakers against Nuclear power in Australia turn around and say the arguments are now outdated and yes it is a good interim solution.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (2, Informative)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about 6 years ago | (#25495169)

Maybe he/she did but the anti-nuclear zealot mob is unstoppable.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (0, Troll)

Whiteox (919863) | about 6 years ago | (#25495613)

I would love to see Peterf*ckingGarrett cut the ribbon on a newly built nuclear power station in the Southern Highlands - his old stomping ground. What a hypocrit.

Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pump (5, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | about 6 years ago | (#25494495)

Yeah, but as has been said a billion times by now, the electrical grid is cheaper and cleaner than a half billion cars driving around burning hydrocarbons. Power plants make it a point to be as efficient as possible, whereas cars make almost the inverse point with IC engines.

Looking forward, the grid is a lot easier to update to cleaner technologies as they come available. It is extremely tough to get anyone to put a new engine in their car because it might improve their gas mileage.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (0, Flamebait)

wiz_80 (15261) | about 6 years ago | (#25494663)

Power plants make it a point to be as efficient as possible, whereas cars make almost the inverse point with IC engines.

I *like* efficiency in my internal combustion engine, thankyouverymuch. It means that I get more power to play with. I get power from a two-litre turbodiesel engine that would have been in sports-car territory just a couple of decades ago.

What I don't like are cars that have small engines with no power. It doesn't matter how efficient the thing is, when I'm on the motorway with meth-crazed Bulgarian truckers bearing down on me, I want to have something happen when I put my foot down.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (3, Insightful)

Hucko (998827) | about 6 years ago | (#25494803)

You could always try steering out of the road. Why do you *have* to be in front? Are you going to get there significantly faster than the car behind you? My anecdotal tests have convinced me I can let 10 - 20 cars over take me and still not lose any noticeable time getting where I want to go.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (3, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | about 6 years ago | (#25495633)

I have an Insight, and even though it only has a 70hp engine, it can accelerate just fine. In fact I've had it up over 100 mph while cruising across the American continent. At no point have I ever felt the need for more power, and I drive the four-lane-wide I-95 every day with thousands of other cars and trucks.

The key is to learn how to go with the *merge* with the flow of traffic, rather than be an obstacle that jumps in front of massive trucks.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (4, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | about 6 years ago | (#25495075)

Come off it. Yesterday I was in the left hand lane that was practically stopped. I could see the reason it was stopped... about 1.5km up the road the traffic was also stopped (because of an accident). The left land was slow because lots of people were trying to exit the motorway to avoid the congestion.

When a small opportunity arose, I changed into another lane. I did not accelerate to 110km/hr because I could see that 1.5 km further on I'd be stuck anyway. What happened? I got wankers on their horns 'cause I did not go 110km/hr for the next 1.5km... This is the problem on the road: people somehow cannot see more than one car ahead. This is how I judge people. A LOT of people cannot think mid- to long-term. A lot of these same people make critical business decisions. No WONDER the economies of the world are in bad shape.

Just for the record, I ended up further along the road than those fools behind me,giving me grief, dodging in-and-out of traffic, and not thinking beyond the next 2 seconds. If more people thought ahead things would BE BETTER. But, alas, the first car in front (for these fools) is always the one at fault. And they extend this stupid mentanility to all aspects of their life. The hare and the tortoise. We need more turtles

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1)

theaveng (1243528) | about 6 years ago | (#25495617)

>>>I got wankers on their horns 'cause I did not go 110km/hr for the next 1.5km...

So the moral is Aussies are impatient drivers? (ducks a spitball). I deal with almost the same problem every day, due to bridge construction, and none of my American neighbors honk at me. They do have that same tendency to race to a stoplight, which makes no sense..... I think it has less to do with stupidity, and more to do with the desire to get home ASAP.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1)

notknown86 (1190215) | about 6 years ago | (#25495653)

I concur - if mod points were mine, this man would have some

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | about 6 years ago | (#25495469)

I want to have something happen when I put my foot down.

All the better, an electric motor *starts* at maximum torque, so you're putting down as much power as possible right when you slam your foot down... instead of like an archaic IC engine that takes time to rev up to max torque.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1)

theaveng (1243528) | about 6 years ago | (#25495637)

A hybrid has the best of both worlds - an electric motor with max torque from 0 rpm, and a gasoline engine that can be recharged in 2-3 minutes time, thereby giving the driver unlimited range.

You'd need a LOT more plugs than gas pumps. (3, Informative)

plasmacutter (901737) | about 6 years ago | (#25494829)

Because of the time required to charge vehicles, we'd need a cord station at pretty much every parking space everywhere for widespread use of pure electrics to be tenable.
(even if we implemented amazing recharge rates through capacitors, we wouldn't be able to utilize them because, without a completely separate, ultra-capacity utility network, the grid would overload)

How expensive is this per capita vs a carbon trapping device from the government for everyone and a massive fuel subsidy program?

In the long term they're financially better off rolling out a complete rebuild of the power grid to support "burst charging" of ultra-capacitors so cars can be charged in a couple minutes at "stations", the same way we do now with gas.

Hence the reason for the buildout. (5, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | about 6 years ago | (#25495061)

Because of the time required to charge vehicles, we'd need a cord station at pretty much every parking space everywhere for widespread use of pure electrics to be tenable.

Surprise, that's exactly why they're starting the buildout now. You build it once, and you're done, you don't keep building it again and again, as you do with cars.

I'm not saying that we have to immediately switch over to everyone on electric either. I'm not even saying that petrol should go the way of the dinosaur (in this case, literally). But for most drivers, electric is more than enough for every day life. And even "slow" charging batteries are just fine, because most of us spend most of our days inside, whilst our cars sit outside doing nothing but collecting heat.

Re:Hence the reason for the buildout. (1)

theaveng (1243528) | about 6 years ago | (#25495655)

>>>Surprise, that's exactly why they're starting the buildout now. You build the electric grid once, and you're done, you don't keep building it again and again, as you do with cars.
>>>

Your sentence make no sense. Once you've installed the "gasoline grid" (pipes/charging stations) you don't need to rebuild it again-and-again. It's done.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (2, Insightful)

daver00 (1336845) | about 6 years ago | (#25495143)

But how do you define efficient? Pure thermodynamic efficiency? Sure power plants win out - but what does that mean and exactly how useful is it? Power plants do not keep in line with demand - they cannot, as demand waxes and wanes the power grid supply more or less flat lines. How is that efficient?

I drive an old car, but I bet that I use less fuel than the vast majority of people and I am unashamed of driving my old car because the numbers don't lie. Now not to be combative but I say screw you and the horse you rode in on to anyone who tells me my car is worse for the environment than theirs. For the record I drive a 1970s 'pickup truck' (we call it a ute) with a 5 litre V8 engine, carburettor, 4 speed gearbox and low geared differential. It gets 15 l/100km on the highway (work it out yourselves - thats our unit) and I have no idea what in the city, I do not care. Why don't I care? Because I spend about $10 - $20 a week on petrol. And down here that amounts to about 7-15 litres a week, or something like 2-4 gallons. A week. So how much more efficient is driving my car the way I do (as in: I don't) than commuting to work in a plug in hybrid? Much more, whats even better is I love my car.

Back to my point: What electrical systems lack is an efficient means of *storing* energy, this is subtle but extremely important. It is basically THE issue when it comes to transportation. In my personal example I use bugger all fuel because I don't turn my car on: I walk, ride the train and bus, ride my bike, etc. I make less impact on the environment than feelgood hybrid driving fart sniffing hippies who plug theirs into the wall socket. Why? Because my hulking pile of metal with an oversized engine and two seats is recycled for one - its age alone means I have drawn out its embodied energy over 30 years, and my owning of it means one less new car needs to be built (another argument for another day). But most importantly it can be TURNED OFF.

The power grid can't just be turned off.

So how are we defining efficient operation? Electric vehicles are time inefficient - it takes a long time to charge them, so in a busy society how does that help us? What do trucking companies do? What do busy mums and dads do? Don't tell me they should just own two cars or two fleets of trucks: Then you double the required resources and construction energy required just to get back to the point we are at today, and the grid *still* can't be turned off like my V8 can. How efficient is that exactly?

No, none of this electric car business makes sense on a large (whole of society) scale. The reason we use oil is because in net terms it IS the most efficient means of storing energy, above all else it is the most *economically efficient* means of achieving mass scale transportation. You can't deny it and electricity won't change this fact. I predict that oil will not be replaced as an energy storage mechanism for transportation, not in the near or distant future. Barring some ridiculous breakthrough in battery technology and a power grid that allows us to charge our cars with megawatts (some 6 meagwatts is transferred to your car from a pump. 6 million joules... every second.) of electricity, it is not going to happen. Of course if we start talking about making oil driven vehicles more efficient, now we're talking - that is smart.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (0, Troll)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 6 years ago | (#25495457)

So how much more efficient is driving my car the way I do (as in: I don't) than commuting to work in a plug in hybrid? Much more, whats even better is I love my car.

More efficient than you think, because you can repair and maintain it yourself. Your ute will be rolling long after the last Prius has begun to leach the toxic contents of its batteries into the water table.

That's the same reason I stick with my 1980s Citroen, with its 1970s (at best) 2.2 litre 4-pot. I can squeeze over 500 miles from its 15-gallon tank, at a steady 80mph-ish speed. That's about as fast as I want to go on twisty mountain roads, where it absolutely hammers modern cars because of its handling and the torque from that big clattery long-stroke cast-iron tractor engine at the pointy end. No, it's not as refined as a shiny new BMW. It's easier to look after, and more comfortable for a long journey, which is what matters to me.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495205)

Also something to think about; if recharge prices were updated throughout the day to reflect what the demand on the grid was (perhaps slightly weighted to discourage peak usage period recharging), then it would be a good mechanism for flattening out electricity usage.

If you don't think anyone is willing to stay up late to recharge at the cheapest time, you've not seen how many taxis drive around Sydney at 4am.

Re:Cars on the Grid is cleaner than Cars on the Pu (1)

theaveng (1243528) | about 6 years ago | (#25495597)

>>>the electrical grid is cheaper and cleaner than a half billion cars driving around burning hydrocarbons.

This is not true. ACEEE.org ranked the EV1 as no cleaner than a Prius or Civic Hybrid. That same ranking showed that the 66mpg Honda Insight was 10% cleaner than either of those EVs.

With electricity you have a 50% loss during the coal-to-current conversion. Then another 10% loss in transmission. 10% loss in the motor and almost 40% loss in the chemical battery. The end result is that the EV1's tailpipe (located at the central plant) spews out as much pollution as a gasoline-powered 50mpg Prius or Civic, and *more* pollution than a 66mpg Insight.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (3, Informative)

kaos07 (1113443) | about 6 years ago | (#25494541)

Sigh, from the article:

"AGL will power the system with renewable energy."

Re:Where are they getting the power? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494781)

That actually sounds like a stupid gimmick. It's probably designed to impress the politicians.

Sigh? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 years ago | (#25495297)

Sounds like a brilliant idea.

The timing depends, of course, on the severity of the current global economic meltdown. But very soon Kevin 007 is going to be handing out hundreds of millions of dollars as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme to companies who substantially reduce their carbon footprint.

AGL currently have a very high carbon footprint given they supply natural gas and electricity. This way they'll probably get a government grant for innovative technologies to tackle climate change, i.e. electric cars.

Where's the renewable energy going to come from? There will be very few cars actually be using the charging grid in the near future, so the current need for renewable energy will be minimal too. When the carbon credits market reaches critical mass and they get a big cash injection will be the time their R&D has perfected cheaper solar, wind and other renewable technologies. Big carbon emitters will be begging AGL to 'plant more windmills' in order to reduce their carbon liabilities.

And if they corner the market NOW, no one else has claimed the market yet, they can charge whatever they like for re-charging later. Petroleum will be at least $AU2/litre in 2012 and only set to rise.

The government handouts alone are worth the establishment costs long term.

Assuming of course climate change skeptics, The Coalition, don't get back in power in 2010/11 before a delayed ETS is operating.

Re:Sigh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495367)

> Where's the renewable energy going to come from?

In South Australia, the hot rocks at Innamincka and wind energy just about all along the coast.

http://www.aussiehotrocks.com/?page_id=10

http://www.tsinfrastructurefund.com/page/Infrastructure_Assets/Starfish_Hill_wind_farm

http://www.rise.org.au/info/Applic/Windfarm/index.html

Re:Sigh? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | about 6 years ago | (#25495657)

Where's the renewable energy going to come from?
I'm with AGL - They burn sugar cane detrius and other organic materials when they can.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495571)

The point to remember here is AGL is a retailer only (FRMP) in the Australian Market and have no generating capability whatsoever. All of the enegry they sell they have bought off the national energy market and are onselling for a small markup. it's about as much of a paper-only company as you can get. they may _try_ to buy energy from renewable providers but they can't guarantee it.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (3, Informative)

erikina (1112587) | about 6 years ago | (#25494463)

Indeed. The summer air condition puts too much strain on the system. It's not uncommon for the hottest days to be without power (at least where I live in Brisbane)

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

iosq (1084989) | about 6 years ago | (#25494503)

Damn, beat me to the chase on the Nuclear issue. What part of Brisbane? Over here in Coorparoo we don't usually have to many blackouts...

Re:Where are they getting the power? (1)

blackpaw (240313) | about 6 years ago | (#25494577)

Hey, not far from where I live (Camp Hill). I lived in Coorparoo 7 years ago. I remember a week of 40c+ temps over Christmas but luckily the power kept going.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (4, Informative)

Firrenzi (229219) | about 6 years ago | (#25494773)

In Brisbane:

This is why ripple controllers are being installed on air conditioners by Energex to alleviate the transformer load. It will be interesting to see what effect turning off an airconditioner for 15 minutes will make on the network.

  Things have changed since 2004 from a management perspective. It used to be cost cut as much as possible. Now tranny upgrades are occurring as a preventative maintenance meausre. If a maximum demand indicator gets close to the limit, it gets upgraded, not left to the last minute when it falls over. Of course spending (or not spending) on the network can be a political thing aswell. Having said that the network is still under significant load during summer. Hopefully the firies won't be hosing down pole transformers to keep them cool this summer. At least it's not the Joe Bjelke-Peterson days that it used to be.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (-1, Offtopic)

John Miles (108215) | about 6 years ago | (#25494607)

Those aren't rolling blackouts. Those electrons were used to create child pornography.

What -- do you support child pornography, or something?

Re:Where are they getting the power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494771)

o i c wat u did thar

"Wind turbines and other renewable" (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 6 years ago | (#25494727)

According to Scientific American, [sciam.com] the plan is to power the cars with "wind turbines and other renewable sources (when possible)". Take it as you will.

Re:"Wind turbines and other renewable" (1)

Konster (252488) | about 6 years ago | (#25494839)

I *do not* want a car powered by a wind turbine. Overhead power lines, OTHER wind powered cars, lack of go motion whilst in still air are but a few problems.

Re:Where are they getting the power? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494811)

As somebody who works in the industry, there's plenty of capacity. The reason for the rolling blackouts last summer was because our redundant lines (in Victoria) were taken out by bushfire. There was no way to prevent it.

Posted anonymous because I don't recall my login (not at home PC).

Re:Where are they getting the power? (2, Insightful)

seamus5 (987609) | about 6 years ago | (#25495333)

No, Australia does not have issues at all with electricity supply. You are probably getting confused with South Africa and as such I don't think your comment warrants being modded insightful.

Shai Agassi (5, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | about 6 years ago | (#25494485)

This is the electric-car effort spearheaded by Shai Agassi, formerly of SAP. He was profiled in Wired [wired.com] a couple of issues back.

The gist of it is that the cars are all-electric (not hybrid), the energy companies sell the power, and the cars are basically free (or close to it). To get around the runtime problems of current electric cars, he envisions filling stations where you pull up in your electric car and instead of waiting for your battery to fully charge, the company swaps out your drained batter with a brand-new, prefilled one, and off you go. This is possible because they own the batteries anyway.

In short, the idea is to move away from the Gillette razor model for cars, toward the cell phone model.

Now that I think about it... (5, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | about 6 years ago | (#25494641)

Actually, now that I think about it, Gillette is the wrong model. The current car model is the PC model: Pay a bunch of money up front for the computer, pay for software and support on an ongoing basis, eventually send the computer to the junkyard. Agassi's model is the cell phone model: Pay next to nothing up front, pay the service provider regular installments, replace or upgrade the hardware as needed for a nominal fee, but the hardware is all tied to the service provider. What you're paying for is not a car, but transportation.

It's an intriguing concept, but it's hard to see it taking off in the U.S., where the automobile probably ranks ahead of diamond jewelry as a universally-recognized status symbol. Even Prius owners are making a statement about their lifestyle.

But what do I know? I ride the bus.

Re:Now that I think about it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495073)

I'm just afraid that they end up lending too much from the phone industry (ie. the vendor lockin shit). It would suck to have a flat battery and not be able to charge your car in a station simply because your milage provider is not the same as the one which owns the station.

Re:Now that I think about it... (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | about 6 years ago | (#25495347)

If they take cues from the telcos, you'd be able to charge whereever you want; it'll just cost you 100 times more if you do it at via a competitor's network.

Re:Now that I think about it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495179)

Isn't the cellphone model the same as the car model? Buy a phone/car, pay for credit/fuel, use credit/fuel, buy more. When your phone/car is old sell it on if you can or otherwise throw it away.

Re:Now that I think about it... (1)

miro f (944325) | about 6 years ago | (#25495423)

I think he's talking about the cell phone "contract", where you pay $x per month for y years and get a particular phone free.

The more you call/drive, the better phone/car you can get

Re:Now that I think about it... (1)

aiht (1017790) | about 6 years ago | (#25495201)

... in the U.S., where the automobile probably ranks ahead of diamond jewelry as a universally-recognized status symbol.

It's like that here in Australia, too.
But what do I know? I ride the bus too.

Re:Shai Agassi (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 6 years ago | (#25494745)

To get around the runtime problems of current electric cars, he envisions filling stations where you pull up in your electric car and instead of waiting for your battery to fully charge, the company swaps out your drained batter with a brand-new, prefilled one, and off you go. This is possible because they own the batteries anyway.

I find the idea of owning a car and not owning the battery (or gas/deisel engine) that powers it... distasteful.

If you flash the ECU in your car for more performance, do you void [contract] you have with the owner of the battery?

Re:Shai Agassi (5, Funny)

Xtense (1075847) | about 6 years ago | (#25494849)

I think I'm going to need an easier, car-based analogy to fully understand this.

Re:Shai Agassi (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 years ago | (#25495353)

Anyone for tennis analogies? We are talking about Agassi after all.

Re:Shai Agassi (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | about 6 years ago | (#25495221)

The gist of it is that the cars are all-electric (not hybrid), the energy companies sell the power, and the cars are basically free (or close to it). To get around the runtime problems of current electric cars, he envisions filling stations where you pull up in your electric car and instead of waiting for your battery to fully charge, the company swaps out your drained batter with a brand-new, prefilled one, and off you go. This is possible because they own the batteries anyway.

This is perhaps the "elevator pitch" but in reality there is much, much more to it than just this.

1) Other comments have posted about rolling power outages - these electric cars will help *prevent* rolling power outages! The truth is that the power grid is massively overbuilt. There is about 25% of the grid built to handle perhaps 12 hours of usage per year - the dreaded mid-summer air conditioning spike. These cars "talk" to the grid. They charge when power is plentiful (eg: at night) and can even backfeed into the grid if there's a shortage. The result is that they make better, more consistent, and more even use of the grid 24x7, while also providing embedded resiliency.

2) The cars are rented. You pay for usage. Yeah, much like the cell phone model. But because of this, you don't have to worry about batteries, you don't have to worry about mechanic bills, and the cost for usage (per mile) is less than your existing car, anyway. Since nearly all cars are either financed or leased nowadays, anyway, the effect on the consumer is negligible. Day-to-day, you wouldn't notice the difference!

3) The reason why electric cars bomb is the dreaded long trip. Even with 250 or so miles per charge, roughly equivalent to most cars' "full tank" range, the electric cars to date are utter fail for trips that are farther. You have to find a place to charge. You have to wait 4-8 hours. Etc. But with these electric cars, you can swap batteries in less time than it would take to fill the tank on your existing car. The problem of replacing batteries just.... goes away.

I'm not just sold on this plan. I'm sold and sold and sold. I wish California would jump on board - I'd finally have a good reason to replace my aging (but perfectly operational) 10 year old 200,000 mile Saturn SL2!

Sick of this. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494543)

Hey, any chance we can get a few Slashdot "editors" from, say, Bolivia, or maybe Togo, so the front page can be flooded with stories from their homeland whenever it's their turn to "edit"?

Yes, we know, Australians "just want to be noticed" by Americans, and nothing else in the Universe matters more than that, but can't even Slashdot escape their adolescent attention-seeking?

How long before we see slashdot.org.au?

Re:Sick of this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494575)

Are you from Bolivia or Togo?
Yeah, I thought so.

Re:Sick of this. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494587)

Yeah, and fuck you too, seppo.

Re:Sick of this. (1)

Dermah (1277738) | about 6 years ago | (#25494601)

Two whole stories from the last thirty are from Australia. This is an injustice to the world of technology news! I demand all technology to be developed and used in America only so that we don't have to hear about it from whining little bastards who need attention!

Re:Sick of this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494613)

Too late for us because its already Slashdot.au! There are more articles about Oz than any other country out side the USA. I could forgive that if it was because nothing happens in other places but its just bias by ./ edittors in favor of their favorite countries. There are more scientists in Europe than there are people in Australia but how many stories from Europe make it on to ./? How about other nations which are easily more important than Australia but which you never here shit about? The blatant self promoting of countries by edittors is as bad as the self promoting of themselves by edittors like Michael Sims or ad spammers and link farmers like Roland Piquepaille.

Re:Sick of this. (1)

Hucko (998827) | about 6 years ago | (#25494861)

Or it could be that Australians are actually doing things of significance... Aren't the persons mentioned ... US Citizens?

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495427)

Are you suggesting that no researcher or tech entrepreneur outside of Australia or the United States is doing anything interesting enough to be featured on Slashdot?

I usually don't waste my time on what are little more than Troll threads, but this time I have to say I inderstand where the GP is coming from, even if I can't exactly sympathise completely (because they are probably just a troll).

Australia really is massively over-represented on this website. I'm not denying that interesting things occur there, stuff of interest to we "nerds", but why the lack of stories from - as the GP mentioned - the hordes of scientists and researchers throughout Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter?

Sure, there's bound to be a limitation set by language barriers, but the odds are in the favour of those working from the UK and Europe, since there are so many science workers in those places, and so many of them speak English.

Yet so few stories regarding their work make it to Slashdot, or scientists from Asia for instance, while most Australian articles, often of quite marginal interest, seldom fail to appear.

Maybe Slashdot should consider employing a more diverse range of editors, rather than just the American and Australian ones they do, so that a more realisticly global spread of articles is finally achieved.

the child in me... (5, Interesting)

RuBLed (995686) | about 6 years ago | (#25494559)

envisioned that as a massive electric bump car grid.

Re:the child in me... (1)

Keramos (1263560) | about 6 years ago | (#25494691)

Well, that'd work in Melbourne. Much more efficient to have 100 cars using an overhead cable than one tram. :-)

Re:the child in me... (1)

thogard (43403) | about 6 years ago | (#25495035)

The current trams weigh so much that its more efficient to have 100 of the more energy efficient Hondas on the road than a single tram.

Electricity is the choice interface (1)

1 a bee (817783) | about 6 years ago | (#25494567)

There are many alternative power sources to petroleum. Whatever alternative power sources become economical in the future, I imagine it would be sensible to standardize on the way that power is delivered to the consumer. Electric power seems like a good candidate; hydrogen, for example, (hoax? [google.com] ) is not.

So as long as this grid is not hard-wired for a specific type of power source (I can't think how it could be), then I think this investment by the Australian gov should pay off.

Works fine in Australia (3, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | about 6 years ago | (#25494597)

One of the main reasons this might work in Australia is because it is an island. Cars don't get on and off this country, so buying a car and worrying about going to "non-compatible" countries won't be a problem.

This is why their initiative may have a bigger effect than, say, a European country surrounded by differently positioned countries.

Re:Works fine in Australia (1)

weharc (852974) | about 6 years ago | (#25494637)

Don't forget about our hovercraft!

Re:Works fine in Australia (1)

miro f (944325) | about 6 years ago | (#25495445)

but you wouldn't want to take your hovercraft overseas, it would get full of eels!

Re:Works fine in Australia (2, Insightful)

Techman83 (949264) | about 6 years ago | (#25494699)

Thing is, it's a rather large island and you are forgetting tasmania. I also wonder if there will be a charging station at the Nullaboor Roadhouse or maybe Meekathara or "insert random pissant town 1000+ kilometres from anywhere even remotely civilised".

Re:Works fine in Australia (1)

Benaiah (851593) | about 6 years ago | (#25494755)

They could always roll it out like mobile phone technology. Stuff the people in the country.
Roll it out for the cities first, then rural centres. That covers 98% of the population. The rest can stick to deisel because there is no point driving say 350ks then having to stop for 30mins to recharge. Although this would probably help stop most fatigue related accidents on country roads. :)
Maybe a good thing. If you want to cross the Nullaboor (which most people outside Australia wont understand, Its that giant desert in the middle of Aus, where the road is 1000ks without a bend on the road) then they can do it in a petrol powered car.

I dont see why we dont use a kind of induction grid where we run HV cables under the road and have huge coils wrapped around our cars and charge as we drive :)

Re:Works fine in Australia (1)

Techman83 (949264) | about 6 years ago | (#25494899)

Stuff the people in the country. Roll it out for the cities first, then rural centres. That covers 98% of the population.

Yes it becomes quite apparent when you drive for 1000ks with no mobile coverage, Unless you get "Next G", which is more like 3.5G and not compatible with any other network in the world.

The rest can stick to deisel because there is no point driving say 350ks then having to stop for 30mins to recharge.

Pocket hurts from stupid parity pricing of diesel. It should be cheaper than unleaded! Highest I saw it was $2.15 a litre (which is nearly AU$10 a gallon), where as the petrol was $1.80 something.

Re:Works fine in Australia (1)

JuzzFunky (796384) | about 6 years ago | (#25495525)

"insert random pissant town 1000+ kilometres from anywhere even remotely civilised".

Actually, anywhere that's not Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne... or was that your point?

Why charging stations? (2, Funny)

Buchenskjoll (762354) | about 6 years ago | (#25494603)

Why not a lot of really long extension cords?

It's a Jewish company (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495041)

They will find the money and then control the future car market

With what money? (2, Insightful)

Jacques Chester (151652) | about 6 years ago | (#25494669)

It says the funds will be raised by Macquarie, which is an investment bank. Who, exactly, in the current economic climate, going to give them that kind of money?

I'd prefer a water-powered car! (1, Funny)

Roark Meets Dent (650119) | about 6 years ago | (#25494703)

This is just a distraction; I'd much prefer to drive a WATER-powered car, like one of these:

Water-Powered Car 1 [youtube.com] Incredible invention by Stanley Meyer (R.I.P.)

Water-Powered Car 2 [youtube.com] Another one, just unveiled in 2008 by Japanese company Genepax.

Water-Powered Car 3 [youtube.com] Denny Klein's car goes 100 miles on four ounces of water.

Water-Powered Car 4 [youtube.com] Daniel Dingel runs his car on water, too.

Water-Powered Car 5 [waterpoweredcar.com] Yet another website on the subject.

Re:I'd prefer a water-powered car! (5, Informative)

Carbon016 (1129067) | about 6 years ago | (#25494937)

The notion of a "water-powered car" is stupid conspiracy theory touted by those who never took a introductory chemistry course because electrolysis consumes energy. It might be novel (which is its only real value) but inside all those cars are batteries which are doing electrolysis and then the resulting mixture is burned, which is vastly less efficient than using that power to drive the car or using hydrogen created by wind or solar.

Hydrogen is not an energy source.

Where are the electric cars? (2, Insightful)

mrbill1234 (715607) | about 6 years ago | (#25494705)

That is fantastic - but where are the electric cars?

Re:Where are the electric cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495435)

> That is fantastic - but where are the electric cars?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117427/

So you can't get electricity in a BUCKET? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494715)

Say what? So how can I have my spare 1Gal in my trunk?

battery is the weak spot (1)

Max_W (812974) | about 6 years ago | (#25494765)

Is not a battery is heavy and contains the whole table of Mendeleev in it? Why not make small light aluminum but comfortable computerized cars with the normal engine?

Fix the trains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25494851)

Bugger an Electric Vehicle grid.
Fix the trains first :)

Proprietary networks are bad (4, Insightful)

Grue (3391) | about 6 years ago | (#25494853)

I hope they're talking to the car companies about the necessary standardization it would take to make this work, too.

For all the press Better Place has been getting lately, I haven't seen an in-depth analysis of their business model, specifically as it relates to standardization of the infrastructure, including plugs and sockets.

I have a feeling their charging plugs, sockets and protocols are proprietary. Anyone who attempts to produce a compatible charger/socket is going to find themselves on the end of a very aggressive lawsuit. Unless of course they've licensed the technology from Better Place.

Our current gasoline-based system is deeply flawed, but at least it's open. We're replacing it with a marginally better system, but we're giving up that openness for a closed system owned by a single company.

And then there's the conflict of interest issue. What incentive does a company have to reduce power consumption on a car when it's getting a cut of every charge?

Shai Agassi is a smart and charismatic man, but who can really say they're happy with the cell phone business model? Most consumers aren't, but the cellular networks are making quite a profit.

Re:Proprietary networks are bad (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 6 years ago | (#25495099)

``Shai Agassi is a smart and charismatic man, but who can really say they're happy with the cell phone business model? Most consumers aren't, but the cellular networks are making quite a profit.''

I'm not complaining. I get to make and receive phone calls and text messages and access the Internet pretty much everywhere I go, for less money than my ADSL line costs.

Re:Proprietary networks are bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495239)

If this became critical infrastructure, you can bet that all that proprietary stuff will be forced into public domain.

Re:Proprietary networks are bad (1)

bazorg (911295) | about 6 years ago | (#25495419)

I haven't seen an in-depth analysis of their business model, specifically as it relates to standardization of the infrastructure, including plugs and sockets.

1) promise electric car network

2) ?

3) profit

Three cities? (1)

Caity (140482) | about 6 years ago | (#25494875)

Under the plan, the three cities will each have a network of between 200,000 and 250,000 charge stations by 2012 ...

Um, so which three cities would that be?

Technically there are half a dozen or so "cities" in what most people would otherwise call "Sydney" (eg Sydney, Manly/Warringah, Willoughby... ok I'm from the North Shore but you get the picture... frantic Wikipedia search... how about Holroyd?).

Or there are the main state and federal capitals, of which there are more than 3. Not many more than 3, but still...

Re:Three cities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25495019)

Under the agreement, Macquarie will raise one billion dollars to build electric-vehicle networks in the country's largest cities -- Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane -- while AGL will power the system with renewable energy.

One billion... (4, Funny)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about 6 years ago | (#25495065)

...plans to build a massive one-billion-dollar charging network

Sounds pretty useless. How many australians can be charged one billion dollars?

Re:One billion... (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about 6 years ago | (#25495243)

All of them, it's capacity to pay where the buisness model falls apart.

172 stations per day (1)

vnsnes (301511) | about 6 years ago | (#25495071)

200000 stations by 2012 means that, if they started today, they would have to come out with 172 stations every day until 1/1/2012. Good luck!

Re:172 stations per day (1)

batkiwi (137781) | about 6 years ago | (#25495619)

I think that "station" means "charging station," not like "petrol station". Think pumps, not complexes.

Put 1 plug per space in a 2000 space car park and you're 1% there.

Wired magazine had an article... (1)

bledwhite (1306577) | about 6 years ago | (#25495233)

I read in Wired magazine that the guy who made his money from SAP is starting a similar scheme in Denmark but actually changing the battery instead of charging 'your' battery. More like swapping so that the burden of owning a battery is gone and you rent batteries fully charged from him. Sounds interesting.
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