Tokyo, Japan – The Japanese government has commissioned a pilot project that will test the world’s first electric taxis with switchable batteries.

California-based electric vehicle service provider Better Place received an award from the Japanese government for the Tokyo project. Better Place will partner with Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, in a test phase that will begin in January 2010.

“Japan continues to be a leader in automotive engineering and innovation, and the government’s funding of Better Place for the world’s first battery switchable electric taxis is a testament to the country’s commitment to sustainable transportation,” said Kiyotaka Fujii, president of Better Place Japan. “This puts the Better Place battery switch system to use in a real-world application involving heavy-use vehicles that drive much more than the average passenger car. It also enables us to begin to convert taxis to clean, zero-emission transportation.”

Japanese taxis represent only two per cent of all passenger vehicles in the country, but due to the average distance they travel each day, they emit approximately 20 per cent of all CO2 from vehicles. There are approximately 60,000 taxis in Tokyo alone, far more than in New York, Paris or Hong Kong. The outcome of the Tokyo pilot program for electric taxis could point to opportunities in other urban centres, as well as help to ensure efficient technology transfer to the mass market, where daily mileage is far less.

Tokyo R&D Company, a specialist in automotive engineering and production, will supply the cars based on commercially-available vehicles, with the necessary battery latch mechanisms and switchable batteries. The company will also be involved with building the battery switch site, and provide diagnostic software for the pilot. The vehicles will be put into standard taxi service by the Nihon Kotsu taxi company.

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