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Feasibility and sustainability of an electric vehicle battery exchange system

Carroll, James (2013) Feasibility and sustainability of an electric vehicle battery exchange system. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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There is increasing concern over the depletion of fossil fuels and the role transport plays in greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrid vehicles while generally more efficient, still use fossil fuels. A technology with promise is the battery electric vehicle, recharged from the mains or by locally generated renewable energy.

Obstacles to growth in battery electric vehicle sales include higher cost than equivalent internal combustion engine vehicles and shorter driving range. Range is seen as a major difficulty by potential buyers, even though 95% of travel in a typical day is within the reach of current generation electric vehicles.

Among the solutions to increasing the range of electric vehicles is the swappable battery. When the vehicle’s battery nears exhaustion, the driver pulls into a roadside battery exchange station. A robotised system removes the battery from underneath the vehicle and replaces it with a charged unit. The process takes a few minutes, approximately the same as a fuel refill.

This paper examines the processes involved in this technology and estimates the feasibility of a network of such stations. The conclusion is that the infrastructure is very expensive to set up, to the point where it can take a decade or more to show a return on investment even under the most optimistic scenarios. Using mains power from the Australian average generation mix, principally derived from coal, means that the use of the system shows little or no reduction in carbon emissions compared with similar fossil fuelled vehicles. The extra cost to the business of using renewable energy for recharging the batteries places financial viability even further out of reach.

With advances in battery efficiency and fast charging methods, a network of fast chargers shows greater promise at lower cost.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Djordjevic, Sinisa
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