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There is common term in electric vehicle circles: “range anxiety”. This is the fear that your electric car doesn’t have enough charge to get where you want to go. I’ve only just realised how unique one of the built in features of the Better Place electric car I’ve ordered is. It is a prediction of your battery’s state of charge at the end of your journey linked in with the car’s GPS satellite navigation system.
When I drove to the battery switch station the other day, we used the trip computer and the screen at the start of the journey is presented above. I’ll explain what it shows:
- We start the journey with a 99% full battery (bottom left of the picture).
- First destination (1) is in 12km and will be reached at 12:32 and with the battery at 86%.
- Because the destination (1) is a battery switch station (see the video here) the computer assumes we’ll pick up a new battery!
- Destination (2) is actually back to the Better Place visitor centre. We will return there with a 90% charge.
- We didn’t actually swap the battery so when we got back in the car and started the return journey, the computer compensated accordingly.
I can report these numbers were pretty accurate. I’ll know more when I actually have a car for a much longer time but on a first try out it worked very nicely. I’m told the system will allow you to have multiple drivers and will learn to account for differing driving styles. I believe the car I drove was mostly used for tests on Better Place’s 1km track so it had been pushed hard and assumed it would be driven hard.
The other important part of the system is what happens if you punch in a destination beyond the range of your battery. A simple prompt tells you and asks if you want to fix this. If you select yes, it then re-routes you via appropriate battery switch stations as needed to get to your destination with a reasonable safety margin.
I didn’t realise this feature was so unique but I’ve been reading online about owners of the Nissan Leaf and they report a fluctuating estimate of remaining range and no mention of any feature like this. I’d be keen to know if any other production EV’s offer something like this.
Once again Better Place has taken the Renault Fluence ZE and, with the addition of smart software and network, made it better than the sum of it’s parts.